Cynical as am about politics (any last hope I had was knocked out of me over the last couple of years by the whole U.S. mess) I still love a good political thriller. There is something about it that gets me all worked up. Maybe it is the fact that these largely corrupt people hold a large part of our lives in their hands or maybe it is just because I cannot believe the lengths the people in politics will go to remain in power. Seems like fiction but I am sure it is closer to fact that I would like to think.
The latest addition to film’s political thriller roster is Miss Sloane directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). A film of this sort rests largely upon the script and the acting by the lead. Johnathan Perera’s (first film) script is well-written and thought out. Though there are some lags in the 2 hours and 12 minutes I’m not sure they can be attributed to the script. Most of the time it was so verbally fast paced and wordy that I thought it might have been written by Aaron Sorkin. Jessica Chastain has proven herself, over a relatively short period, to be one of the most talented actresses working today. The Julliard graduate seems to inhabit not play the wide variety of characters she has taken on. Everything about her performances seems authentic. And like she did with her character in Zero Dark Thirty she has shown an aptitude for hard, driven women.
Being one of the best known political lobbyists working today and at a high profile firm, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain – The Help, Zero Dark Thirty) seems to be a woman at the top of her game. Miss Sloane is the queen and king of backroom deals and Machiavellian manipulation. When she suddenly decides to up and leave her big firm for one with a much lower profile jaws drop. Including the young intern who was being groomed by the master herself, Jane Molloy (Alison Pill – Milk, Hail, Caesar!). Jane shockingly decides not to go with Sloane when she moves on.
The smallish rival firm, led by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong – The Imitation Game, Kingsman: The Secret Service), is attempting to win a Second Amendment battle that would put in place background checks for all those wanting to obtain a firearm. Sloane does not see this as a step down. Rather she is supremely confident that she can outthink any opponent and win all fights. Even against the almighty dollars of the NRA and American gun owners who staunchly protect their Constitutional right to bear arms.
Just like most of the characters in the film, Madden and Perera keep their intentions hidden until the last moment possible. This will keep viewers on the edge of their seats while furrowing their brows trying to figure out who is doing what. It is a film that tries to keep you guessing at all costs. All in like its title character. As Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain turns in her best performance since the Oscar nominated turn in Zero Dark Thirty. She shines in a film that is built around her character taking on a role very few other female actresses would have the ability to make believable.
Throughout the film the question of whether this was how things worked in Washington. If it is even close to the truth it is frightening. Plenty of favours are done, arm twisting that is borderline blackmail is performed, money is thrown about, and backstabbing is an every moment occurrence.
Madden’s film involves plenty of duplicity, maneuvering and deceit. All things that play very well on the big screen. Audiences would normally lap it up, but in this instance I am not sure. First of all, the main character is a woman who many would describe as a bitch. Filmgoers generally like their women attractive and soft. There is no one who would call Elizabeth Sloane soft. A woman who puts her career first and will go to any lengths to win is not seen as someone you root for. Whereas in a male character these qualities are applauded. The sexism is overt. Second, because of the mess politically the United States is in and the rise of the right wing there (and other places) I’m not sure the anti-gun stance/fight of the film will be applauded. These two things might work against it and see an affect at the box office.