Miss Sloane Review
If you’re not aware of how much of a political thriller Miss Sloane is before you visit the cinema, then Jonathan Perera’s script wastes no time skipping past its brief introductions. Peppered by Aaron Sorkin-lite dialogue, you are immediately placed onto the back foot, asked to assimilate technical jargon, political terminology and an ever growing list of names and faces. The story is led by the seemingly impenetrable Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), charging up Capitol Hill ready to drain the swamp.
It takes a while to find your bearings and understand who everyone is and what exactly we are listening to, before the convoluted script defines the two opposing sides. The film begins with a head-on shot of Sloane briefly testifying in front of Congress, before stepping back three months earlier, where the real story begins. Jessica Chastain quickly slips into the role of the fast talking, hyper-intelligent and ruthless lobbyist, who has a superhero-like ability to stay miles, rather than steps, ahead of anyone else.
Sloane is a top-drawer lobbyist, paid the big bucks and flawlessly dressed like a million dollars. She is always the sharpest in the room, with a reputation for taking absolutely no prisoners. These attributes are exactly what chauvinist Senator Bob Sanford (Chuck Shamata) hopes will win over the female vote, ahead of a new pro-gun law; an idea that Sloane literally laughs out of the room. It appears she does have a moral compass after all and abandons the multi-million dollar firm to take on the challenge of opposing the gun bill, switching sides to work in a smaller company under Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong).
Chastain does the best she can with a script that is no doubt full to the brim with accurate political and factual information but low on characterisation. By the time cracks do finally start to appear in Sloane’s armour, it feels like too little too late. Her male escort Forde (Jake Lacy) is the one who finally draws out these tiny slithers of humanity, as the pressure intensifies in Sloane’s near impossible mission to win over the requisite senate votes. Chastain is never anything but wholly believable in the role and with more complexity attached to her character when it mattered, this could have been a fascinating study about what drives people who work at the top of their professions.
The supporting cast are just as capable in their respective roles. Mark Strong doesn’t have much involvement in the story beyond occasionally popping his head above the parapet to tut disapprovingly, or slap Sloane on the wrist. Gugu Mbatha-Raw once again proves her talent in a role that essentially adds up to being Sloane’s moral conscience. John Lithgow’s appearance as Congressman Ron M. Sperling, bookends the film, leading the congressional hearing seen at the very start. Although he can only add light, Lithgow-esque moments, given his brief screen time. The final act works towards producing the largest rabbit you will ever see pulled out of the hat, the type that would make even Derren Brown blush.
Clearly the November release date in the US was intended to pitch this towards the Academy and there is a case to be made for Chastain’s performance in that regard. John Madden’s direction opts to take a back seat to the ridiculous plot developments, which was probably one of the few wise choices made in the film. Perera’s first ever script is really the source of all the problems and maybe converting this into book form would have proven to be a stronger alternative.