Miss Sloane: One Woman Army

Political thrillers are best served ice-cold

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By Manfred Lau

Miss Sloane takes its title character and shoves her in your face. Rarely does a scene forget to show or remind you of the film’s main protagonist. When Elizabeth Sloane stops speaking, others talk about her. She outshines every other character, completely dominating the scene. Thankfully, Jessica Chastain pulls off such a cool and convincing performance that her on-screen presence remains a constant enjoyment.

Make no mistake, this movie is about lobbying. Miss Sloane, a veteran lobbyist, knows how to pull strings and push buttons in Congress for the sake of influencing legislation. She circumvents restrictions, manipulates allies and outwits opponents. The movie centers on Sloane’s ultimate goal: to aid in the passage of a new gun control measure, and in doing so, outplay the seemingly impenetrable gun lobby.

While the premise sounds like a liberal propagandist’s pipe dream, the movie actually remains neutral on the matter of gun control, focusing more on questionable lobbying techniques than trying to convince the audience of any specific viewpoint. Points for and against gun control balance out as both sides utilize their own underhanded tactics. If any lesson is to be taken from Miss Sloane, it might be the widely accepted opinion that our broken system needs to be fixed, and fixed soon.

The film itself plays fast and loose with its realism. In portraying an elite team of lobbyists, Miss Sloane struggles to balance informative exposition against characters who should know more than a clueless audience. On the other hand, Sloane’s team tosses around political terms like confetti; the unrelenting dialogue might fly over anyone who’s never taken an American Government class.

Dialogue remains the focus of the movie. Each scene boils down to individual conversations, whether on the street, at a fundraising dinner or in front of the conference table. Few exchanges show more activity than cuts between talking faces, a notable disappointment for anyone not vehemently interested in political intricacies.

Fortunately, Miss Sloane’s ruthless persona keeps the audience waiting for her next icy retort, for her next move on the chessboard. Chastain plays a near-sociopathic professional obsessed with victory, who tosses aside relationships for the sake of winning, undisturbed by the lies and deceit she leaves in her wake. Even food and sex are only temporary diversions to Sloane, filled by need and not desire . Her cold-bloodedness entertains the audience in the same way as watching a snake slowly ensnare its prey.

But even a lobbyist as cunning as Elizabeth Sloane can’t save the film from its downfalls. Miss Sloane darts through its story without regard for a truly substantive plot. Sloane’s motive for joining the underdogs is shaky, and her weaknesses never flesh out.The clichéd work montages bring nothing new; the briskly paced music hides between conversations; and the final twist shows off another instance of Sloane’s merciless ingenuity, but through impractical circumstances. A single actress in even an Oscar-worthy performance can’t eclipse an average political drama.

For those looking to watch a politically framed movie led by a masterful performance, check out Miss Sloane. For others wanting outlandish yet realistic elements in a compelling political tragedy, stick to national news.