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A cutthroat lobbyist is implicated in political scandal by her past employer. The narrative plays over the months preceding a congressional hearing, her firm’s attempts to implement tighter gun control and the dubious acts she must answer for as her tactics become more questionable.
Although evoking the Robert Redford led political thrillers of the 1970s, Miss Sloane’s lobbyist feels very much like a product of the 21st Century. With a potent, female lead stuck firmly in the mire of America’s complicated stance on gun control, in the wake of escalated school shootings, there’s a not-so-subtle message here that while righteous, often feels as though it’s bludgeoning the viewer. Like Joan Allen in Rod Lurie’s The Contender, Chastain’s Sloane must traverse the minefield of an environment mostly run by men in an occupation seemingly orchestrated through deception, tactics and control of public opinion. There is a great deal of witty dialogue that rewards in the more meandering scenes and Chastain et al are masters at its delivery.
The dialogue is concise and cutting but there are occasional screenplay blips that fans of the genre may find a little “on the nose”. A character’s name gets mistaken for “Manchurian” at one point, the opening monologue sounds suspiciously as though it’ll come back into play later, and there are one or two character affectations that play out like plot contrivances later.
Jessica Chastain’s titular character is iron-willed, highly driven and orchestrates manoeuvres ten steps ahead of her opponents. There’s great delight to be had by watching a well written character boldly stride within the confines of the narrative and between her psychological prowess and emotional manipulation, Sloane is a force to be reckoned with. This could’ve easily been a two-dimensional character buried beneath the frost with a heavy dose of style-porn thrown in for good measure, but instead we’re witness to a multi-layered performance despite occasional plot clichés that make Sloane out to be a political superhuman.
The inclusion of Mark Strong evokes some of the posturing and furrowed-brow’ness we witnessed between he and Chastain in Katheryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty but at least his generic American accent has improved. Michael Stulhbarg and Sam Waterston make for engaging antagonists, just falling short of moustache twirling but the bulk of my attention was taken by the superb turn from Gugu Mbatha-Raw who captivates in every scene.
While Miss Sloane boasts some solid twists, and turns, a slick score from Max Richter and an impressive cadre of potent performers the overall execution comes off more like a John Grisham holiday read than a Sidney Lumet or Alan J. Pakula classic. If political intrigue is your thing then there’s an awful lot here to chew on.
Miss Sloane launches in cinemas May 12th.
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