Director: John Madden
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston, and John Lithgow
Powerful, sure-minded women who speak their minds and have intelligent opinions are often given a bad reputation in motion pictures. Many times being told, mostly by men, that they are cold, heartless, or unfeeling. Coming on the heels of a divided election and having an even more pertinent message than the producers could have imagined , "Miss Sloane" is a film about an ambitious female lobbyist in Washington D.C. going toe-to-toe with a male dominated gun industry. The film is directed by John Madden, a best director Academy Award nominee for the film "Shakespeare in Love" in 1999, in the style of a political-thriller but is more suited as being an intriguing character study with a strong performance from Jessica Chastain who plays the title character.
Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is introduced sitting in a Congressional hearing concerning the ethical intentions of her role as a lobbyist for an organization that was spearheading a new bill on gun regulation. Every aspect of her career in under scrutiny, including her personal life and her former employment with another organization that is currently her opponent for the gun bill. Mr. Madden orchestrates a taut courtroom drama in these moments, with Sloane the target seemingly from every angle and every person in the courtroom. However, these beginning moments aren't given much context other than an brief introduction to all the players associated with Sloane.
The film takes the viewer back to the beginning, two years, when Sloane was an up-and-coming lobbyist making positive and negative impressions with everyone she encountered. Abruptly, Sloane decides to leave the organization and move to a rival group after being asked to consult on a campaign opposing background checks for gun owners by a National Rifle Association-like group. From this moment the film begins to dig into the character of Elizabeth Sloane, displaying her shrewd tactics, viewed by some as conniving, and her meticulous methods that display her ambition for success. While this sometimes comes off as callous to her constituents who have trouble keeping up with her decisions, they cannot deny the results she achieves. Many times she seems one, two, even three steps ahead of everyone in the room.
Director John Madden handles the aspects of Sloane's character with confidence, portraying a female character in a such a way that no character in the film ever feels like her equal. It's her character that makes the film so enjoyable, a quality that should be attributed foremost to the wonderful performance by Jessica Chastain who deftly layers many aspects of the performance with engrossing touches that correspond to the themes of vanity, loyalty, and purpose that define her character. Without such strong lead performances from the lead and supporting cast, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a pawn for manipulation and Michael Stuhlbarg as a loud antagonist to Sloane are both very good, some of the deficiencies of the narrative would be harder to ignore. Aside from the long-winded political rhetoric which offers great opportunities for the actors to unleash a bit; the structuring of the build-up for the story doesn't fit many of the resolutions, which seem too neatly packaged for as complicated as the issues are explained to be.
Still, "Miss Sloane" is a great character film that offers an impressive performance from Jessica Chastain. While it may not completely achieve the thrilling political moments it reaches for, it does create a thrilling mystery watching a character that is never easily categorized and is always a step ahead of everyone.
4.00 out of 5.0