Talk about timely! Just after a divisive and polarizing election, along comes Miss Sloane to further blow the roof off Washington, D.C. In this case, it’s the lobbying industry, which has become so prevalent in the way government gets things done — or doesn’t. As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), it will be interesting to see how audiences respond to this film after going through a bruising election year. The timing is either brilliant or off.
But the fact remains this is an explosive movie, a dramatic powder keg of a political thriller, will have those who go to see it talking long after they leave the theater. And it gives the wonderful Jessica Chastain a real showcase role that is her best at least since her Oscar-nominated work in Zero Dark Thirty. She’s sensational as Elizabeth Sloane, a D.C. lobbyist whose prime goal is just the win, but things get complicated when other factors enter into her decision to ditch her firm when they take on an NRA-style gun advocate cause. She goes to another firm representing the pro-gun control legislation now up for a vote, causing an earthquake-like response in this film, which keeps piling on so many twists and turns it will make your head spin.
The gun control aspect is an interesting choice since it remains such a divisive issue in the U.S., but this film, written on spec by Jonathan Perera — a first-time screenwriter living in South Korea, where he worked as a teacher — is more about the essence of the lobbying game itself than anything else. It’s all centered on Miss Sloane, a ball-busting, no-nonsense winner in the “sport” whose whole life revolves around her career, which seems to be careening out of control. Perera made an interesting choice to wrap this all around a woman, since it doesn’t try to be patronizing or turning this into some kind of feminist manifesto. Sloane, and her dubious moral and ethical choices, acts more like what Hollywood traditionally has put a man through in these kinds of dramas, and it is all the better for its searing honesty in that regard.
She is not necessarily a likable character or role model for young women for much of the film. Sloane’s personal life, such as it is, consists of brief trysts in a hotel room with a male escort/prostitute (Jake Lacy), and her business decisions cut to the bone with little regard for the human consequence of her actions. Again, it’s the win that matters, whatever the cost. Of course, it gets much more complex than that, but I am not about to give away the mounting plot developments here.
Director John Madden keeps this thing going at a dizzying, whirlwind pace, often using montage-type sequences to speed up story points. That the film runs 2 hours, 15 minutes is surprising since it doesn’t feel that length at all. Madden is helped greatly by putting together an ace cast of pros to support Chastain. John Lithgow is fun as a U.S. senator conducting hearings trying to nail Sloane and her cause, while Sam Waterston is slickly brutal as her ex-boss now plotting to defeat her any way he can. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is an associate with a past, while Alison Pill is a former co-worker who seems just as conniving as Sloane. There’s also fine work from Michael Stuhlbarg and particularly Mark Strong as the head of the new firm she goes to.
In some ways, Miss Sloane could be looked at as a kind of big-screen counterpart to ABC’s potboiler series Scandal, but this movie stands on its own as a bracing indictment of the town it is set in and, ultimately, a highly entertaining one. Producers are Ben Browning, Kris Thykier and Ariel Zeitoun. EuropaCorp has the film in limited release and is going wide on December 9.
Do you plan to see Miss Sloane? Let us know what you think.