Sunday, December 11, 2016

Movie Review #535: "Miss Sloane" (2016)

Movie"Miss Sloane"
Director: John Madden
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 12 minutes
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A lobbyist tries to stay one step ahead of a rival lobbying group while attempting to garner support for gun control legislation that will require universal background checks for all gun sales nationwide.

"Miss Sloane" is a political thriller directed by John Madden, who is known for films like the Oscar winning "Shakespeare in Love" and "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." It stars Jessica Chastain as the titular Elizabeth Sloane, one of the most ruthless, cunning lobbyists on Capitol Hill. She is approached by the nation's largest gun lobby to try and kill an upcoming gun control bill by trying to convince women to like guns. Miss Sloane, however, agrees with the bill, and much to the chagrin of the gun lobby, she goes to work for the competition to make sure the bill passes. Joining Chastain are Mark Strong and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who are working with her in support of the gun control bill, and on the opposing team are her former coworkers, played by Sam Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Alison Pill.

This film examines the disgusting back-room wheeling and dealing that goes in the U.S. government, as well as the dark sludge of the swamp we call the U.S. Senate. Jessica Chastain does a fantastic job as the strong-willed, dynamic, crafty, and powerful lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, who has a very small circle of trust, no family or friends, and lies through her teeth and in her sleep. Sloane is always one step ahead of her opposition and she's clearly the smartest person wherever she goes. Chastain conveys this with the utmost brilliance. Her performance could even be Oscar-worthy, though she will likely wind up a dark horse for a nomination at best as this is another excellent year for women in cinema. Though Chastain is the driving force of the film, the superb acting doesn't stop there. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has really made an impact in the last few years and is stellar here as a woman who has dedicated her life to fight for better gun laws, but is hiding a painful secret. Michael Stuhlbarg has also been a powerhouse figure in the last couple of years, and with brilliant performances in "Steve Jobs" and "Pawn Sacrifice," his acting here falls right in line with these other performances in a splendid fashion as an opposing ruthless player in this seedy game.

Of course, there's no doubt "Miss Sloane" is a politically charged film that will polarize viewers long before it ever hits the screen. There is a lot of fast-paced, punchy dialogue, courtesy of first time screenwriter Jonathan Perera, though there isn't much subtlety about the message being sent here. This will isolate many viewers off the bat. It received a slew of one star votes on IMDb as soon as ratings opened on the film. We personally prefer to judge each individual piece on its own merits rather than its message, though we do happen to agree with many of the points presented here. What winds up on screen is a dynamic performance from Jessica Chastain, excellent supporting performances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Mark Strong, and an interesting, captivating thriller in the same vein of "All the President's Men" or "Frost/Nixon." We wound up finding this film almost always engaging (it was especially so for the patron sitting behind us who were clearly captivated at the end of it all and gave a wild clap before the movie ended). As we watched the complex events unfolding on screen, we went through a bevy of emotions from anger to sadness to disapproval to stunned. Though some instances may feel a bit convenient and it is quite messy at times, it is pretty riveting.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~60%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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