Miss Sloane has all the signs of a film that Hollywood studios had bet on competing as an Oscar contender last year but knew at the last minute it wouldn’t stand a chance due to poor public or critical attention. Despite how much I enjoyed this, it’s hard not to blame them. Political thrillers are a tough sell, especially in the turbulent conditions America now finds itself in (both this film and Jackie clearly envisioned a different political leader and situation to greet its release in 2017), so naturally responses would be equally polarizing. What’s particularly amusing personally is the execration received by critics for its opinion on gun control which exemplifies the reactionary defensiveness that the film openly mocks dismissively as irrational. What’s really at work here is a film concerned with the hollowness of the democratic political process in America, and to that degree, Miss Sloane is a success but with a lot of stupid elements thrown around which clutters up the final product.
However, those mistakes are almost impossible to notice when Jessica Chastain appears on screen. Ever since 2011, and her appearance in Al Pacino’s production of Salomé and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Chastain has been on a storm. Being a consistently powerful and compelling performer whose ability to be so talented in whatever role she’s required to do, Chastain has become an actress comparable only to the likes of Daniel Day Lewis in terms of power and presence. Miss Sloane is Chastain’s movie, from beginning to end, and even after months past and the film fades into obscurity, her performance is what people will remember most of all.
The titular Elizabeth Sloane is an incredibly successful and influential lobbyist for an incredibly powerful organization in Washington D.C., who feels a necessity to concentrate on her work every hour of the day. A formidable figure in political circles, Sloane is hired by a wealthy rifle association who wish to ensure that a bill inhibiting the accessibility to firearms in America is swept out of the senate as quickly as it comes in. Sloane refuses and is soon requested by the opposition, led by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), to help push the bill into passing the senate which she accepts as a professional challenge. As her campaign becomes increasingly influential with several senators, things quickly become personal as her private life and the lives of those around her are pushed into the spotlight, making the consequences of her actions more questionable as to whether the ends really do justify the means.
If there was any reason why the film wasn’t as good as it tries to be, it’s three words – remote controlled cockroaches. The script, written by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera, is filled with these moments of absurdity that makes the original intent appear to be a political comedy that somehow became deadly serious in an effort to be smart cinema. Its intellectualism is skin-deep, resorting to dense exposition and terminology in order to appear sophisticated without the necessity of being so.
That doesn’t get in the way of Jessica Chastain’s performance which really has to be seen to be believed. It’s hard to think of another intense, powerhouse performance in recent memory that is explosive in almost every scene. Elizabeth Sloane is a role an actor dreams of obtaining – a Machiavellian amoral Darwinist who is always steps ahead of her opponent with foresight. It’s almost absurd how calculated Sloane is, suggesting she knows the outcome before Schmidt even approaches her for help. But Chastain makes it believable. If there was any reason to check out Miss Sloane, it’s her. It’s highly doubtful anyone else could do a better performance this year.