‘Miss Sloane’ is One Cold Mistress of Manipulation
Throughout her career, Jessica Chastain has built up a reputation of being a versatile chameleon in Hollywood. Slipping in and out of roles from an obsessed CIA analyst in Zero Dark Thirty to a morally ambiguous wife and business partner in A Most Violent Year, there’s no powerhouse performance she won’t turn down. As the titular calculating and cold-hearted lobbyist in Miss Sloane, she delivers what could be the performance of her career.
Shakespeare in Love director, John Madden delves into the world of lobbying – particularly gun lobbying. With the political roller coaster of a year we’ve had, Miss Sloane straddles between being insightful and scary simultaneously. Going into the film, one expects a substantial amount of political mumbo jumbo the general public might not be up to date on. From an outsider’s perspective, some of those inner workings might seem tedious and repetitive. Instead of spinning it wheels, we’re faced with an examination of Sloane’s cunning psyche.
Interesting enough, gun control is a primary catalyst of debate in Miss Sloane, but it never forces its pro-gun control rhetoric upon its audience. The subject matter is rather a tool. Screenwriter Jonathan Perera could have easily taken any topic on Capitol Hill and made it the backbone of Miss Sloane. It just so happens that gun control is a hot topic that could’ve easily been pulled out of a hat. Except for one direct point in the film, it’s disposable.
SEE ALSO: AFI Fest 2016 Review: Miss Sloane
Rather, we are treated to a film fueled by unrelenting obsession and manipulation the likes we would get from a Damien Chazelle or Darren Aronofsky. Chastain’s Sloane is out to win. There’s no secret that she will go any means to obtain victory either. Whether jumping ship from one firm to another or stabbing colleagues in the back, there’s no greater determination than what she’s driven by. There are times throughout Miss Sloane when we have to applaud her cunning. But at the same time, we witness moments so uncomfortable that it questions our support of her as well. Audiences will flip-flop as often as the representatives do concerning the key gun bill.
As Miss Sloane unfolds in its non-linear narrative, we begin to understand more and more how the pawns that surround her become greatly affected by her actions. At the beginning of the film, Sloane is before a congressional hearing to answer for her actions. And while a sea of individuals behind her mean little upon an initial glance, the impact is greater as the film progresses. Her firm head, played by Mark Strong, is reserved, but is willing to butt heads with the maverick lobbyist when she crosses the line. The same goes for a stellar Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who works on Chastain’s team, but is nothing more than a pawn in the overall scheme of things. Alison Pill is equally impressive, standing her ground against Sloane when her entire team jumps ship early on.
While not a nail-biting political thriller, Miss Sloane has a few occasional lulls due to its slight overlength and few absent unscrupulous tactics along the way. But that never hinders Sloane’s ruthless agenda, which is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the entire film. Perera’s script even hints at humanizing outside her lobbyist persona, bringing even greater layers to her character. For someone who’s always in control, when she’s clearly not, it’s no pretty picture.
Miss Sloane deserves plenty of buzz going into awards season, primarily for Chastain’s unforgettable relentless performance. Witness the most frightening game of political chess on Capitol Hill that we’ve seen on the big screen in recent memory.