Miss Sloane Review

The Plot

Elizabeth Sloane a feared and highly in demand Washington Lobbyist abandons her high powered post to instead champion a piece of anti-gun legislation that seems surely destined to fail. In so doing she faces fierce battles against public opinion, wealthy gun manufactures and even her former employers, testing the limits of her own ruthless resolve.

The Good

Jessica Chastain is a unique commodity as a performer, readily eschewing Hollywood stereotypes in the pursuit of genuinely complex and nuanced roles. Playing Miss Sloane Chastain deploys her full arsenal of ice cold composure and subtle fragility. The film deliberately avoids exploring exactly what drives her character to be so obsessively determined to win at all costs.

It’s rare for Hollywood’s dramas to leave its heroes or antiheroes ambiguous. It seems studios often lack the confidence to allow audiences to make their own imaginative assumptions and are usually instead determined to forcefully spell out character’s motivations and emotional backstories. Ultimately it’s refreshing to maintain a certain mystique behind some of Miss Sloane’s more reckless and self-destructive tendencies. The character makes vague hints about her clearly troubled past but then swiftly dismisses heavy handed attempts by others to make assumptions about her intentions and motives.

Another way in which Chastain’s performance aggressively defies expectations is by treading a fine gender neutral line. She manages to make Miss Sloane a shrewdly calculating designer dress clad alpha predator without ever fully succumbing to the lazy stereotypes that so often demonize or oversimplify figures of fiercely feminine power.

Around Chastain a solid supporting cast of familiar faces such as Mark Strong, John Lithgow, Sam Waterstone, Michael Stuhlbarg and Gugu Mbathat-Raw help flesh out the sordid world of Washington political dealing and power plays. Special mention should also be given to Jake Lacy for his brief but meaningful contributions as a surprisingly chivalrous male escort.

Overall the film works its way through a series of twists and dramatic turns as the two sides of the bitter American gun law debate fight for the hearts and minds of the public and consequentially the political elite. Independent of audience’s actual political leanings on the subject, the film is truly less about the moral arguments surrounding this issue and more about the way the powerful and determined seek to cynically control the outcome of seemingly broken political systems.

The Bad

There are endless big screen examples of amoral political power games making for exciting vicarious viewing. Indeed Netflix award winning House of Cards is about to delve into its fifth series based around the delights of following scheming power hungry characters operating without moral limits at the highest levels of political influence. Stacked against the endless array of similar tales there’s not necessarily quite enough to mark Miss Sloane out as something truly unique or essential in an already crowded genre.

Despite a solid cast and competent dramatic composition from director John Madden, ultimately the film’s supposedly jaw dropping moments never quite land with the full force expected from such punches. Supposed twists are perhaps a little too easily telegraphed by an audience overly familiar with these types of dramas. Perhaps predictability is one of the prices the film pays for creating instant confidence in Miss Sloane’s calculated efficient trickery.

The Ugly Truth

Miss Sloane holds audience attention firmly thanks mostly to Jessica Chastain’s composed star turn, a solid supporting cast and the timeless appeal of ruthlessly amoral political intrigue.

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