Miss Sloane is a slick underseen and under-appreciated political drama that offers Jessica Chastain a platform to really flex her acting chops.
With a fearsome reputation that proceeds her, Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is a no nonsense and highly successful lobbyist in Washington DC who finds herself at the centre of an earth-shattering scandal when she is recruited to spearhead the embattled anti-gun lobby.
With pro-gun advocates lining the streets to tear her down, Sloane has the fight of her life on her hands if she is going to sway the hearts and minds of key senators regarding a key piece of firearm control legislation. With each underhand tactic and backstabbing, the dirty underbelly of US politics starts to become increasingly evident – and at its centre is Sloane herself.
Chastain is a hurricane that tears through this film, chewing through scenes with a ceaseless energy and furiousness that leaves the rest in her wake. It’s a compelling performance that illustrates how the efforts of one actor can truly elevate a movie several notches; with every line, we as an audience question her motives and methods, torn between sympathy and disdain. Like a potent mixture of Claire Underwood and Gregory House, Elizabeth Sloane is a goldmine character that Chastain digs into, tearing at the ethical quandaries and strategic chess moves with glee.
With mealy dialogue that recalls Aaron Sorkin’s finer moments, Miss Sloane cleverly structures its narrative by recalling events that lead to a pivotal scene towards the end of the film. Edited together like an account of her misdeeds, the film is like an autobiography that peels away the layers of this uncompromising and tenacious character. The film is also a commentary on the flawed, rotten system at the heart of American democracy and highlights many of the underhand tactics used by powerbrokers to get Washington to bend to their will.
This last point is probably why the film slipped under the radar in the US last year; not just because director John Madden deconstructs the gun control debate but also because the film exposes America’s justice system for what it really is. It’s a heavy film loaded with talky scenes about bureaucracy and passing legislation; but also one that really rewards those who stay with it until the death when all the intricate jigsaw pieces are slotted into place and the full picture of what Sloane has up her sleeve slides into frame.
Sloane’s corporate sharpness and brisk nature is reflected in Madden’s directorial work; his film is never showy or flashy, but similarly never boring to look at either. Here it’s the characters who do the talking, not the cameras.
The supporting cast – Mark Strong, John Lithgow, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg – are all great too and get the space to flex their acting chops. However it’s Guga Mbatha-Raw’s Esme who emerges as the best supporting role. Forming a key part of Sloane’s offensive against the gun lobbies, it’s the dynamic that emerges between the two characters that forms the basis of the film. Jake Lacy draws the short straw – he plays a male escort in Sloane’s employ outside of work, but his arc feels rushed, forced and then hastily (and inadequately) resolved come the end.
The Verdict: 8/10
Filled with compelling characters, ideas and themes, Miss Sloane has been wrongly passed over this awards season – but when it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s well worth your time and money.
Miss Sloane is in cinemas across Australia now.