Review: Miss Sloane
In Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a lobbyist who decides to leave her high-profile job at a large firm when she’s assigned to block a bill that would tighten up gun regulations. She decides to jump to the other side, working for a much smaller firm to fight the gun lobby. Her decision to switch sides stuns her co-workers at her former firm and her intentions aren’t made clear right away. As Sloane says in the opening scene, talking directly into the camera, “The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition and plays a trump card just after they play theirs.” Much to the detriment of those around her and to the enjoyment of us, the audience, Sloane keeps everyone in the dark, striking at the right moment.
The film does a mostly excellent job of keeping viewers on their toes. There are some twists and turns that are legitimately surprising, which is a credit to Chastain and her character. While we don’t know everything upfront, we do know one thing: Sloane will do anything to win. The line keeps moving with each decision she makes and you never know exactly how far she’s willing to go to take down the other side. Chastain carries the film on her shoulders with her portrayal of the smart, driven and unpredictable Sloane. Miss Sloane doesn’t escape some contrived plot points and painfully telegraphed reveals, but for the most part Chastain as Sloane ramps up the proceedings.
The political machinations that go along with passing a bill through Congress are presented with the exact amount of excitement as you’d expect. It’s dry at times, absolutely, and while director John Madden takes some visual cues from The Social Network, he doesn’t carry over the same exhilaration seen there. There are moments that drag on for way too long; Sloane’s final monologue, in particular, overstays its welcome by a good three minutes.
The rest of the cast is rounded out by some solid character actors. Sam Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg and Alison Pill’s characters lead the big lobby firm’s efforts to block the gun rights bill. It’s refreshing to see Stuhlbarg given some, albeit brief, moments to shine, especially after seeing him not used to his full potential in Doctor Strange and Arrival this past year. Waterston and Pill have a little The Newsroom reunion, playing similar roles they played on that show. But the best reunion in the film is the Zero Dark Thirty reunion between Mark Strong and Chastain. Strong plays the head of the small lobbying firm, with Sloane under their wing, going up against the gun lobby. It is always nice seeing Strong is anything, really. He’s one of the best character actors working today and in a role that could’ve been entirely thankless turns out to be a tad more interesting.
Miss Sloane deals with gun rights with a heavy, left-leaning angle, but it doesn’t paint everything black and white. Sure, the gun lobby and the big firm are clearly the bad guys, but Sloane’s actions do not make her a moral pillar. She’s willing to get her hands dirty and we’re not entirely sure we should be rooting for her. The adage “When they go low, we go high.” is something Sloane would scoff at. When they gun lobby goes low, Sloane goes even lower. In the predicament we’re in now, in which the dirtiest, most immoral people are sitting at the highest seats of power, should we resort to dirty tricks to win the fight? Miss Sloane isn't perfectly formed, but what thanks to its supporting cast, Chastain and a few well-placed twists, it turns out to be an effective thriller that speaks to our current perilous political world.