By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
In what is probably the craziest year of politics in the United States, and a time where stories of gun violence permeates the news, this movie could not have come at a more relevant time. Miss Sloane offers a biting commentary on the world of lobbyists and how their work affects U.S. government policy–particularly that of gun control legislation. The movie delivers a solidly written and exceptionally acted portrait of a cold-hearted, amoral and driven lobbyist who will stop at nothing simply to win. That exceptional performance comes from versatile actress Jessica Chastain who gives movie goers the top reason to watch this film.
Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) has made a name for herself as the top lobbyist in Washington. Known for her brash, no-holds-barred approach, Sloane may have the respect of her contemporaries and employees; however, the same exact people fear and loathe her. Sloane has little qualms about it, though. Her business is winning and not making friends and confidants. In fact, when she receives an offer to switch sides and leave her firm to support a gun control bill, Sloane simply cannot resist the challenge. She soon discovers, though, that doing so turns her former colleagues into her enemies who are almost as conniving as she is. Sloane also begins to acknowledge the true evil nature of her business and how it is destroying her.
Written by Jonathan Perea and directed by John Madden, Miss Sloane not only offers a stern indictment on the blood-sucking underbelly of U.S. politics behind a glossy, polished facade, it also gives that world a chief protagonist who personifies everything wrong with that world. Politicians often present the kinder, smiling facade of humanitarianism and progenitorship, but the lobbyists behind the scenes often are the wicked puppet masters who pull the strings and influence public policy, for better or worse. Elizabeth Sloane embodies that cold-hearted, amoralism that has no limits. She will blackmail, steal, and cheat if necessary. She will exploit her enemy’s weaknesses to get what she wants.
Now I know that probably doesn’t sound like a very dimensional character, but in switching sides, Sloane gets to experience the ugliness of her usual practices and it gets downright ugly. On the surface, Sloane may sound like a downright, loathsome character, and she has her share of moments, but Perea, Madden and Chastain do exceptional work to give audiences a more dimensional character, showing her more vulnerable sides, exposing her weaknesses, her loneliness and near-soullessness. The development never gets too bogged down in an origin story, but deep-down inside the character is a person who wasn’t always this way. She somehow got devoured by her world and became addicted to the juice of the game. It really is a fascinating character study and Perea and Madden pull it off nicely.
Chastain absolutely nails the role as well. She offers a performance that appropriately dominates her scenes and holds her own against her male opponents. Though the character represents female empowerment in a male-dominated field, it is a power that comes at a high price. Chastain is absolutely frightening and almost sickening when Sloane is at her worst and is beautifully sympathetic when she shows the little heart that remains in the character. It may be a long shot this year, but I would love to see Chastain receive some nominations for what is one of her best performances so far.
Chastain also has an amazing supporting cast with no weak links in the bunch. The film also stars Allison Pill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, John Lithgow, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark Strong, Saw Waterston, Jake Lacy, and many other talented actors. For me, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is definitely another standout in the film besides Chastain, and though it might be a long shot as well, I would love to see her receive some supporting acting nominations for her performance here. She delivers a turn that is truly powerful and emotionally charged.
What is also an even longer shot is the chance that this movie will receive any accolades or nominations. That I can understand completely. The film isn’t without its flaws. Some of the things that happen get a tad far-fetched and test the limits of credibility. Regardless of its issues, though, I still highly recommend this film. It is a tense and suspenseful thriller that offers both an intelligent commentary on U.S. government and an excellent examination of the type of people often involved. Chastain’s performance, alone, makes this movie worth the price of admission.