With the immediate issues found within the synopsis of Branded, it is fair to say that the cutting social commentary has had its bite extracted and moved far from the Jamie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Dulerayn collaboration. So bad a film that the two have not directed anything since this Ed Stoppard-led disaster, the knock-on effect of dystopian storytelling is clearly too large a task for these budding collaborators to crack down on. A limited exploration of conglomerate greed returns a film that, had it not included Max von Sydow, would be a talentless, opportunistic cash-in on a genre and premise that had been covered and picked apart long before Bradshaw and Dulerayn rubbed their heads together and came up with this.
Incompetency reigns supreme here. Hoping for some form of quality close to that of the odd yet mediocre tones of Visioneers, with the grey pangs of bleak life at least complementing the performance there, Branded can only hope for such middling highs. A general lack of precision is what makes this so poor. Attempting to collate so many different styles, not in camerawork, but in screen ratio and special effects. A mixture of ineffective green screens and nonsensical lighting greet the few brave enough to attempt a viewing of this. One scene sticks out, where Max von Sydow gives a speech in a board room with an open floor plan outside, yet the lights are on during this clear, summery day. Small details such as this are odd to consider, but when added together they amount to many of the problems found within the film.
Speaking of Sydow, he is the one draw the movie has to offer. His performance is dreadful, but who could blame him for phoning it in with this one? Still, he is a beam of hope in an otherwise bleak world. Stoppard isn’t exactly the leading man draw audiences can depend on, and he proves such a theory here. Not one second of his performance is at all memorable, Stoppard manages to make himself completely unknown, despite featuring so prominently. That is probably for the best, considering how poor everyone comes out of this one. Destitute scriptwriting and horrifically embarrassing work is what holds Branded together, its miserable status and collection of social commentaries not working in the favour of either director.
Perhaps it is for the best that we leave Branded to its own confused devices. A narrative that seemingly suggests the world would be bleak, boring and lacking in controversy without advertisements, the film is beyond salvageable. A film that fumbles what it has to say is worse than a film that says nothing at all, or at least it is in some cases. Branded is concerningly inept, not just in a visual and creative presentation, but with its cast and crew also. Deserving of nothing but ridicule, it is a creation that will attempt to muse on the worries of society, but its smug tone and neutered, greyscale proportions make this an unbearable addition to the “where did we go so wrong?” category of filmmaking. Advertising is bad, go figure. Branded offers nothing more than what the audience already knows, and no less than everything that is wrong with modern filmmakers who are inclined to say something when they are completely devoid of thought.