So politics am I right? Seriously though, the modern political world is some strange parody of itself. Thank god for movies, where you can go and escape to strange and fantastic worlds, filled with strange alien creatures, colourful characters or maybe a cut throat lobbyist system surrounding American gun control. Wait a minute that doesn’t sound escapist at all!
Elizabeth Sloane is a leading lobbyist with a ruthless reputation. Because of this, she is approached by Senator Bab Sanford to campaign against a gun restriction bill. Sloane respectfully declines, laughing in their faces. She is then asked by a conviction lobbyist to run the support for the bill. This puts her in the crosshairs of the gun lobby and one of the most powerful lobby firms in Washington, her old employers.
Miss Sloane is a tour de force; it is a heavy hitting political thriller with top-notch performances from a cast that includes Zero Dark Thirty’s Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw from Belle, and everyone’s favourite gravelly cockney, Mark Strong. Every actor hits the mark perfectly, with great turns from recognisable character actors.
There is also a viscerality to the cinematography of Miss Sloane, shot with deep shadows and hard contrasts in colour. It does use the slightest of shaky documentary-style camera work but rather than being an overused shorthand for realism, the cinematography seems to drip with style thanks to the excellent use of glass, mirrors and reflections. Mark Kermode was right in his review to point out how this very deliberate stylistic choice reflects themes of duplicity, but perhaps it also speaks to the vanity of politicians or the fake transparency of government.
John Madden, the director of Shakespeare in Love and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series, does a fantastic job in presenting us with a dog-eat-dog world of politics that moves lightning fast, so fast that at points you feel like Sloane’s team trying to keep up with her political manoeuvring.
The themes of corruption in American politics, while nothing new in film, perhaps benefit from the inclusion of a group that is much ignored both in film and in politics. The conclusion of the film and the way that Miss Sloane is presented had me thinking about the nature of politics and women’s roles within government. Though discussing Miss Sloane in relation to gender politics requires someone with more knowledge of the series of subtle signs that is feminist theory than myself.
On paper, Miss Sloane is a film that should have me raving about how good it is after all that was the first half of this review. Yet something felt off despite all these great elements, almost as if the film was keeping me at arm’s length. There are times when Miss Sloane feels like it is moralising through countless speeches about gun violence and political responsibility. The ending similarly had me a little bit perturbed, as, despite all its self-righteous attitudes, Sloane’s tactics work, suggesting something I wasn’t particularly comfortable with.
This one is a cautious recommendation, it is certainly smart, and Chastain pulls this film along by sheer force of will. However its posturing can begin to grate, and its conclusion certainly left me concerned, but maybe that was the point.
You can watch Miss Sloane in Cinemas now