Release date: 12th May 2017/Watch the trailer here
While we’re practically spoiled for choice when it comes to television centred around the powerful people of Washington, D.C. and all of the bitching and backstabbing that goes on between them, feature-length options can be a little harder to come by. Miss Sloane is here to rectify that, playing out more or less like a two-hour episode of House of Cards, and every bit as impossible to look away from.
The film opens with its formidable titular character, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), pleading the Fifth at a congressional hearing, before we are taken back three months prior to see the series of events that led to Elizabeth being questioned about possible ethics violations by John Lithgow’s Senator Sperling. As a highly sought-after lobbyist, Elizabeth is approached to lead the opposition to a proposed bill aimed at expanding background checks on gun ownership. After laughing in the faces of the men who tasked her with ‘getting women into guns’, Elizabeth leaves the firm she was working for, taking most of her staff with her, to work for the rival lobbying firm looking to lead the effort in support of the bill, led by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong).
The film belongs entirely to Chastain: the real fun of it lies in watching Elizabeth – always impeccably dressed and with wits as sharp as her heels – willing to go to any and every length possible in order to win, even if it means throwing her colleagues under the bus in the process. We know from the get-go that Elizabeth is cutthroat and driven, but we never see the true, monstrous extent of her personality until winning comes at the cost of Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an employee and a survivor of gun violence, something which Elizabeth is all too happy to manipulate for her own gain.
She’s far from a likeable character, but all the same, it’s difficult not to want to root for her: after all, Elizabeth is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and complex female characters that we’ve seen so far this year. Chastain’s Golden Globe-nominated performance is one that will probably be remembered as ‘career-defining’, and it’s hard to imagine Miss Sloane being anywhere near as gripping without her at the forefront.
It is Chastain who also keeps things grounded when first-time writer Jonathan Perera’s screenplay starts to veer wildly off-course, trading in the sharp, enigmatic dialogue of the first half for some silly plot twists and a frustratingly ridiculous ending that doesn’t even try to aim for realism. Then again, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that the best thing about Miss Sloane is, of course, Miss Sloane herself.