Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 14 December 2019

Diff review: Political drama Miss Sloane tackles big issues with a gripping performance by Jessica Chastain

While hardly a subtle instrument likely to silence America’s Second Amendment flag-bearers, Miss Sloane makes coherent, earnest appeals for gun control without resorting to blind rhetoric or flagrant emotional pleas.
Noah Robbins, Grace Lynn Jung, Douglas Smith, Jessica Chastain and Al Macadam star in EuropaCorp's Miss Sloane. Kerry Hayes / EuropaCorp – France 2 Cinema
Noah Robbins, Grace Lynn Jung, Douglas Smith, Jessica Chastain and Al Macadam star in EuropaCorp's Miss Sloane. Kerry Hayes / EuropaCorp – France 2 Cinema

Miss Sloane

Director: John Madden

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Four stars

Why do we really do good deeds, and does is really matter if the outcome is the same? This the moral schism at the heart of Miss Sloane, the gripping and rewarding drama which opened this year’s Dubai International Film Festival on December 7 (and goes on general UAE release on December 15).

Premièred at Hollywood’s AFI Fest a month earlier, John Madden’s 11th picture so earnestly follows the procedural bent of contemporary biopics, it feels like a true story. Yet first-time writer Jonathan Perera’s script is fictitious – and the fact it feels so real says much about the film’s strengths and weaknesses.

Lead Jessica Chastain channels the same steely intent than earned a Golden Globe for Zero Dark Thirty, as the eponymous Elizabeth Stone, a headstrong political lobbyist. Narratively framed by a disciplinary hearing which threatens to end her career, we watch as hotshot Sloane – an industry pro feared, admired and detested in equal measure – quits a lucrative, big firm gig to take up the issue of gun control with a “boutique” firm of “hippies in suits”.

But a moral crusader she is not. Sloane is driven by nothing more than a need to “win big”, bigger than ever before – she a frazzled addict of her own success.

Perera’s razor-sharp dialogue fizzes with zippy, cerebral exchanges, capturing the mood of unaccountable elitism which characterises the high-stakes, ego-driven world of Washington DC’s political shark-tank.

As the film unravels, Sloane’s means and methods become increasingly dubious, raising further moral quandaries. But while Chastain is utterly convincing as an abominable ice queen, at times the writing verges on caricature. Sloane’s workaholic obsessions inevitably hide a broken, pill-popping insomniac so unlikeable her aids have to prep her on conversation points.

“Were you ever normal?” demands British co-star Mark Strong, convincingly cast as the firm’s head Rodolfo Schmidt. The fact that after 132 minutes the audience is none the wiser may be the film’s greatest failing.

And then there is the issue itself. While hardly a subtle instrument likely to silence America’s Second Amendment flag-bearers, Miss Sloane makes coherent, earnest appeals for gun control without resorting to blind rhetoric or flagrant emotional pleas.

Miss Sloane is showing at Souk Madinat Arena on December 11 at 3.00pm

rgarratt@thenational.ae

Updated: December 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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