“I was hired to win.”
Jessica Chastain never disappoints, and this time is no different. As a ruthless lobbyist in her latest collaboration with director John Madden following 2010’s The Debt, Miss Sloane features the actress in her most compelling role to date, speaking volumes on a talent that seems to effortlessly nail it every time. In light of the recent election results in the United States, Miss Sloane feels like a much darker film than it intended to be, meeting us at quite an interesting time in our lives.
The film tells the story of a heroine like we’ve never seen in the game before — a relentless overachiever who will do anything to win her case, treating politics like a game of chess she knows she has mastered, only to pull rug from underneath her opponents at the last moment. Despite its flaws, Miss Sloane is the rare political thriller that has the courage to puncture our reality and ask the big questions, making for an engaging and even important watch.
As one of the most sought-after lobbyists in the dirty town of Washington D.C., the gun lobby courts Elizabeth Sloane to fight for their cause as they realize their unpopularity among women. Her reputation, after all, is unmistakable: she is fiercely intelligent, unyielding with her fiery desire to win, and her unconventional methods of doing exactly just that have earned her a unique prominence.
She declines the offer, however, literally laughing in the face of a powerful, cigar-smokin’, gun-carryin’ figure, and instead joins the opposite side simply because she likes the challenge. Written by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera, Miss Sloane often feels like an overly talky, Sorkin wannabe that manages to stick the landing despite leading to a ridiculous, melodramatic ending.
The film’s strengths, fortunately, far outweigh its flaws. It is a daring, feminist statement unlike anything else released by a leading distributor this year: despite the male director and screenwriter, the women are the heroes at the forefront, having to overcome the challenges placed by men and the unforgiving public. Madden and Perera simply stand out of Sloane’s way and let her do as she does and how she wants to, knowing fully well she’d too easily bulldoze anything in her path anyway.
But it’s her complexities that make her feel that much more human: she is at the top of her game, yet struggles to forge any kind of personal life and any genuine connection to the people around her. If anything, it’s Sloane’s working relationship/friendship with protege lobbyist Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, always a welcome sight) that highlights some of Sloane‘s most nuanced scenes, inciting great chemistry we wish could have somehow been further explored.
Nevertheless, the women are in charge of the show, no matter the bench full of old, white men whose hands control Sloane’s fate as she unfairly sits at a court hearing due to her (mis)conduct. Little do they know, she gets the final say. Even if it drags for too long with its meaty runtime of 132 minutes, Miss Sloane is a film worth the attention. God knows she won’t have to even demand for it — the electricity Chastain emits in every scene will be more than enough to have the audience awaiting her every twist and turn, even if the film does devolve into a silly, fantastical conclusion not worthy of its protagonist. Sloane is absolutely the hero we need right now, but not the one we deserve.