In today’s political climate, it’s a challenge to make a film about politics – whether satirical or rooted in a thriller – that feels like something that couldn’t happen. We’re wrapping up a year in which the seemingly unthinkable happened again and again. So for a politically-themed film to work, it needs to stand out. How will Miss Sloane stand out in the crowd? In a name: Jessica Chastain.
Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is a successful lobbyist who, when courted by the gun lobby to work on their behalf, decides instead to work in support of a bill that would tighten restrictions on access to guns. She quits her cushy job in doing so, and she does it for no other reason than she’s simply opposed to it – a recurring gag that confounds people around her, since her passion would suggest gun violence had a big impact on her personally.. Her growing success in the fight gets the gun lobby’s attention, and they unleash her former company to try and take her down.
The work done by Sloane and her compatriots is a bit convoluted, and doesn’t exactly stand up to logic. No matter. There’s something satisfying about watching Sloane cut through the arguments of the gun lobby and its supporters, even if the methods aren’t ones that may not track in the real world. For example, it’s hard to believe a large enough contingent of Congressmen would not be voting along party lines in a hot-button issue like this.
The film’s success is rooted in its casting, starting with Chastain’s performance. Chastain naturally projects a cool, collected intelligence, but she’s also incredibly charismatic, and both of these characteristics make Sloane simultaneously fascinating to watch and compelling as a lead. She’s also surrounded by a fearless ensemble, including Mark Strong as the head of the company that brings Sloane in to work on the gun legislation bill and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a determined supporter of the legislation, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Sloane’s primary opponent from her old firm.
So even when the film shouldn’t hold up, Miss Sloane is certainly a watchable film. One can only imagine what this film would be like with a little more attention to the finer points of the script…or what a lesser lead would have brought to the titular character.