What a wonderfully strange and fun movie.
The story follows a Russian Misha Galkin (Ed Stoppard) as he journey's to his destiny of changing the world that an old woman told him he would after he survived getting struck by lightning as a child. Growing up he gets into advertising, which leads to the major theme of the movie in that they bash modern day consumerism and capitalism, and even human beings. After his fall from grace Misha the once great marketing and advertising genius fights to bring down the industry he helped build. They show how manipulative companies are, and how they try and do brainwash us, or how we let them. It may not stop you from buying a product, but it will make you question where our society is going if you don't already. The film does it in an interesting and humorous making a lot of good points about the topic and marketing in general. The first half of the film is a straight drama and romance film, but about half way through is truly where the fantasy elements arrive when you see creatures popping representing brands and influencing people to by their products. The film is a romance wrapped in a drama, wrapped in fantasy and finally stuffed into a film with a message, and that is what ultimately hurts the film in that the writers and directors tried to do too much. Now I didn't have a real problem with the following the film, but I can understand that others won't. The romance between Misha and Abby Gibbons (Leelee Sobieski) is a bright spot in the film. As the two come together as they work on a reality show not realizing they're being manipulated just like everyone else. Abby loves and believes in Misha till the end. The comedy and fantasy elements were well done. Instead of forcing down their message like some directors do they writers and director used comedy and fantasy to help illustrate their points without talking down to you. The drama was pretty good. The only real problem I had was the side plot of Bob Gibbons (Jeffrey Tambor). He's some sort of US spy using marketing as a cover. The film makers I think only used this thread to show how intelligent Misha was. It served its purpose, but it could have been better. Then there was the narration and flashbacks, which I think worked really well answering questions for viewers. As you can tell the film has a lot of elements in it, and it ended up hurting the film.
The cast was made up of majority of Russian and European actors. It was filmed in Russia and Bulgaria. The acting was good, but limited because it focused almost completely on Misah and Abby. Leelee Sobieski did a good job as Abby, and had great chemistry with Ed Stoppard. I must also she has aged well. I remember her in Deep Impact when she was I think 14 or 15 years old. She's beautiful and can act. Jeffrey Tambor from Arrested Development and Hellboy did a good job as Bob and his limited role. As I said before I'm a fan of Max Von Sydow. I've been a fan of his since I saw Needful Things, Citizen X and Minority Report among others. He's a really good actor, but sadly he was really underused in Branded playing "The Marketing Guru". The writer and director should have given an actor of his caliber a more screen time or a better written character. Besides these for there are no other real actors really to mention as they didn't leave an impression.
I don't usually mention the cinematography in my reviews, and maybe I will start doing that more, any way the filmed in just two places Russia and Bulgaria. I've always wanted to visit St. Petersburg and Moscow, but I don't know when or if that will ever happen. The directors Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn did a great job show casing the two countries and the city of Moscow. Speaking of the directors they did a good job with the skills they had. I think they are both relatively new director's and have done only doc*mentary films, though I could be wrong. That's right I forgot to talk about the special effects that was used for the fantasy elements. They were done really well since I think with the lack of big named actors they had more money on the effects watching creatures representing such companies as Apple, Microsoft, McDonald's, Microsoft and others fighting and killing each other. Of course they didn't use the actual names.
Branded is a good film that uses message that has been done before, but in a unique, interesting, weird and fun away. Overall the film has a really good story, but with too many elements in it that will make it hard for some people to follow. The acting is pretty good, but some actors were underused. The romance was great and fit well with the main story. The cinematography is beautiful and the effects are really well done. I enjoyed this film and recommend it to everyone, but I also know that Branded won't be for everyone, and I'm sure some won't like it. Still you should support unique films like this, if you don't studios won't even bother trying after all then all they have to do is spew out endless remakes, sequels and copies of other successful films.