Miss Sloane (2016)

Make sure you surprise them

A tight, dialogue-heavy, twist-filled tale about a formidable Washington-based lobbyist obsessed with victory, Miss Sloane is a hugely gripping political thriller, one that’s elevated by the magnetic presence of the piping hot Jessica Chastain. Commanding the screen with her flawless pale skin and scorching copper locks, Chastain delivers another tour de force performance as the titular powerbroker who pops pills to stay awake, pays male escorts for sex and uses co-workers as pawns in her ruthless endeavor to crush her adversaries. See, Madeline Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) has a nasty reputation of doing whatever it takes for her clients — even if it means bending some of the rules — this cut-throat resolve making her a star player at her high-powered consulting firm, Cole, Kravitz & Waterman, headed by CEO George Dupont (Sam Waterston).

We meet Sloane as she’s working her way around the legal snags of sending a senator to Indonesia for a chillaxing ‘research trip,’ in order to kill his proposed tax on Palm Oil, which is being used in the U.S. to make Nutella. After successfully eradicating said import-tax bill, Sloane is approached by the powerful gun lobby, who ask for her help in aiding them find a way to convince women to argue against a (fictional) new gun law, known as the Heaton-Harris Bill, the legislation proposing stricter checks on those who wish to purchase firearms. After laughing in their faces (quite literally), Sloane resigns from Cole, Kravitz & Waterman, taking her entire team with her, bar Jane Molloy (Alison Pill), her once devoted protégé — who opts to stay behind. Joining a boutique-lobbying outfit (named Peterson Wyatt), spearheaded by idealist Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), Sloane finds herself on the other side of the Heaton-Harris Bill, fighting against her former colleagues as they try to bring her down, particularly the conniving Pat Connors (Michael Stuhlbarg), a lobbyist who’s not afraid of getting his hands a little muddy.

Don’t play with fire unless you’re willing to get burned.

Working from a script penned by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera, Miss Sloane uses a court investigation against Sloane (and her down-and-dirty tactics) as its framing device, the flick set several months after the abovementioned gun control clash. With long-serving Democratic legislator Senator Ron M. Sperling (John Lithgow) determined to take Sloane out, the hearing seems poised to finish her lobbying career off for good. But, as we delve deeper into the gun lobbying campaign, more is revealed, with Perera filling in the blanks as the narrative cuts back and forth from past to present. Alas, the further the story progresses, the more farfetched some of it becomes, the movie concluding with an absurd final twist that feels like it belongs in another film altogether.

Directed by John Madden — whom Chastain worked with in The Debt (2010) — Miss Sloane has all the hallmarks of a speed-talking Aaron Sorkin-type picture, where characters speak faster than most people can actually think and use insider lingo that many might find difficult to follow. That said, filmmaker Madden keeps proceedings moving at a zippy pace, chiefly when Sloane joins Peterson Wyatt and gets the rag-tag crew of employees ready for a battle via a never-ending barrage of mile-a-minute orders. There’s also a fantastic sequence that sees the hard-edged Sloane face-off against her former co-worker Connors on live-to-air TV, where they debate the Second Amendment, with Sloane eventually taking advantage of a venerable co-worker to stir the audience and get a reaction.

What’s live TV without a little scandal?

Anchoring the flick is two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, The Martian (2015), who plays the intelligent, ambitious and compulsive Miss Sloane, the stunning 39-year-old fusing the character’s tough-as-nails exterior with a hidden tender side, this bringing a certain level of complexity to the rather cold role — Sloane being someone who has very little conviction outside of winning. Clad in an array of heavy-hitting designer suits, killer heels and luxurious outerwear, the ultra-confident strategist always looks ravishing, even if she seems to have very little interest in fashion, Sloane using her garments as a kind of armor, her dark nail polish and crimson lipstick just a couple of subtle extra touches that highlight her ferocity and drive.

While the ravishing Chastain carries the bulk of the film on her more than capable shoulders, her co-stars deliver decent work, too, even if they never quite measure up to the excellent tigress. Mark Strong, Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), is convincing as Sloane’s new boss, Rodolfo Schmidt, who functions as a moral compass of sorts and shows Sloane how far she’s strayed off the beaten track. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Concussion (2015), is great as Esme Manucharian, a junior Peterson Wyatt lobbyist with a complicated past, Esme having survived a prolific high school shooting some years ago, which Sloane eventually exploits for the sake of her campaign, the scenes between Chastain and Mbatha-Raw standing as some of the flick’s finest. Last but not least is Jake Lacy, Carol (2015), who portrays Robert Forde, a Southern male escort with a heart of gold, who’s (ironically) the only person that’s able to break some of Sloane’s ice-cold barriers, the pair sharing some solid moments together, their plotline debunking the idea that it’s solely men who treat sex as an intimate-less, no-strings-attached activity.

‘Chin up. We got this.’

Although some of the film’s more contrived surprises threaten to derail a bit of Chastain’s gripping work, Miss Sloane never sinks into the dreaded swamp of cinematic purgatory, this, thanks to its ever delightful leading lady and director Madden, who crafts a wild character study of a sly political mercenary who is out to win, no matter the cost. While this one mighn’t be 100% believable, and some of its technical jargon a tad daunting, Miss Sloane certainly plays her cards right, with Chastain ensuring that we, the viewers, wind up caring about her character’s ultimate fate.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Miss Sloane is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia