With the recent success of Netflix’s House of Cards, the political thriller genre has been poised to make a return to prominence. Yet while boasting an impressive cast, and a worthwhile story, Miss Sloane ultimately stands as a serviceable film, if not an overly fantastic one. Miss Sloane is the story of a political lobbyist, played wonderfully by Jessica Chastain, as she tackles the biggest fight of her career, and in doing so puts her personal and professional reputation on the line. The fight she picks is one of gun control, and much like the fight in our current political landscape, it is divisive, and cutthroat. The film does not shy away from tackling the issue head on, in a no way subtle statement, as to the filmmakers position on the subject. The theme of the film will no doubt hinder the reception of this movie, as from the get go, the viewer’s own opinion on gun control will shape how they feel about the characters and the plot itself. The film spends many of its key moments, reciting not just the opinions of pro gun control advocates, but also how one would take down the arguments, of the anti-gun control side. This culminates with a speech that has Chastain looking into the camera, and telling the audience that guns are bad and why. The political statements didn’t land as they could have, and stand more as a PSA of sorts, which do hurt the film, and take away from the rest of the story.
The plot is more or less straight forward, with Chastain leaving a job at her prestigious firm, to take up arms(no pun intended) against the very powerful gun lobby. The story follows her as she rallies a new team of bright-eyed hopefuls against the very firm she just left. While the story does weave several twists and turns, as political thrillers tend to do, not all of them land, and the tension that builds throughout the course of the film, ultimately suffers as not of the pieces ratchet up the intensity the way they are designed. These pieces of the story bring down the film in the third act, as they end up being loose ends that need tying, as opposed to satisfying payoffs that thrill the audience, or do service to the story itself. There is a particularly wasteful subplot that runs throughout the movie that sees Miss Sloane, enlisting the services of an escort, another staple of any work of political fiction, as it calls out the very real world issue of politicians, and their connection to the world’s oldest profession, that serves no actual purpose to the story whatsoever, which raises a question as to whether or not it was simply checking a box on the political thriller checklist.
These criticisms aside, the story for the first two-thirds of the movie is actually quite good. The scenes showcasing the character development for Sloane are the best parts of the movie, and when the story focuses on her decisions, and her actions, as she carefully crafts the events as they unfold are quite engaging to watch. The film moves at a frenetic pace, and shows both sides of the battle as they move to sway Senator to their side. When not slowed down by the escort scenes, the story ramps up quite nicely, and sets the stage for the final fight, as the deadline for the gun bills introduction draws closer. Where the movie ultimately falters is the last third, as the fight over the bill comes almost to a complete stop as the movie shifts to an ethics commission hearing about Miss Sloane’s action as a lobbyist, which while woven throughout, are the sole focus of the final act. These scenes have standout character moments, and allow John Lithgow to give a good performance as a Senator set on taking Sloane down, but are large tonal departure from what made the majority of the movie enjoyable.
The standout of the film, and what ultimately save it from being much worse is the cast. Jessica Chastain is great in this role as she conveys the strong and manipulative nature of her character. She shows a range throughout that helps build the character, and save from the big final speech, is well acted, and crafts a flawed and complicated character. The supporting cast is also standouts, Mark Strong and Sam Waterston as the bosses at the two competing firms, show a contrasts of styles as they both navigate having to deal with Sloane, doing so in their own unique way, and are really a joy to watch. Sloane’s chief adversary, played by Michael Stuhlbarg is a good antithesis for Sloane, and gets a few of his own standout scenes, one scene in particular, where he works to sway a Senator to vote against the bill, that was very enjoyable to see unfold. The younger members of the cast that make up Sloane’s team are hit or miss, only Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character is given anything to do to stand out, while the rest, work sort of behind the scenes, with only a few notable quips here and there.