The opening shot of “Miss Sloane” is a tight close up on Jessica Chastain as she methodically, almost impassionately, describes her job as a high-end government lobbyist. “It’s about foresight, anticipating your opponent’s moves, devising countermeasures, and making sure they don’t surprise you” she states as the camera ever so slowly pulls back. There’s something very calculating about the words she chooses and how she brandishes them that is immediately engaging but also raises the hairs on the back of your neck a little.
This is Miss Elizabeth Sloane, a searingly intelligent woman who’s well known in Washington. Coupling rose red lipstick with tar black nail polish, she’s known not for her striking beauty, but for her ruthless efficiency in achieving success. Her reputation leads many to believe that she cares only for herself and crushing the next political challenge. However, when she’s assigned to shoot down the latest Firearm Registration act, her response shocks everyone. The visiting client, an older man who is clearly out of touch, suggests Miss Sloane infiltrate the Coalition of Women Against Guns, slowly manipulate the members, and eventually convince all of them that firearms are empowering so that they will vote in opposition to the bill. She finds this ridiculous scheme hilarious and soon leaves the biggest power broker in DC to work for the opposing firm, a relatively tiny office that doesn’t have the financial backing to fight in the big leagues.
Why does Sloane make this move? Is she fighting for personal or ethical reasons? Or is she just looking for the next big score, and addict to challenge? The movie slowly hints at various explanations, and completely draws the audience in, even if not everything is explained. Further complicating her life are various legal gray areas she’s knowingly dabbled in to close past deals. The closer she gets to accomplishing her goal, the more these hang over her head.
Both the trailer and early scenes of this film show her in a courtroom, and while there are some legal proceedings, this doesn’t play out like a “courtroom drama.” The pacing and intrigue are most more akin to an espionage thriller thanks to the collaboration between first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera and Oscar Nominated director John Madden. The dialog is razor sharp; we can almost see the wounds their verbal sparring inflicts. The film wisely stays in the middle of the debate and doesn’t have political agenda to propagate. And although some moments may seem a tad over the top, everything is still planted firmly within the realms of reality. (Yes, even that insect-tech is real)
Not enough praise can be given to Jessica Chastain in her portrayal of this complex, fascinating character. It takes a powerful performance to sell dialog like this and she delivers one of the best in her career. Even though the movie clocks in at just over two hours it leaves us yearning to know more about her and her future(?) exploits.