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Miss Sloane Review: Jessica Chastain Shines in Dull Thriller

By Ryan Scott — December 9th, 2016

Let's face it. Political thrillers, when executed in just the right way, can be some of the most captivating and quality experiences a moviegoer can have. When executed poorly, they have this very particular, pandering stench to them that just doesn't sit right. It feels extra gross for some reason. Miss Sloane falls somewhere in the middle, but is perhaps more frustrating because all of the right elements are there, but the sum total of all its parts never quite gets there. At least not all the way there.

EuropaCorp's latest thriller Miss Sloane follows Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), a lobbyist in Washington who has made a name for herself and is known for doing whatever it takes to win. Things get interesting when someone from both sides of the aisle of the gun lobby offer her a job. She decides to take the more challenging approach by opposing the gun lobby and makes it very clear that she is going to beat them, no matter what it takes. No matter what the cost. If nothing else, this movie provides a pretty decent understanding of what lobbying actually is, which is good, since it is talked about so often but not really explained all that well.

Given the current political climate, a movie like Miss Sloane that deals with such a hot-button, truly topical issue in a very modern way is something that we could definitely use. It has the potential to be a very important movie. These are issues that need to be explored from both sides, which does happen in Miss Sloane. That said, the gravitas of the issue is never quite felt because there is this inexplicable layer of network TV, courtroom drama cheese that is laid over the entire movie. Sort of like an Instagram filter that is meant to make something more palatable. It is just present enough in almost every aspect of Miss Sloane that it really detracts from what should be an otherwise incredibly powerful movie. But the cheese is, unfortunately, detectable.

Cheese aside, the one thing Miss Sloane definitely has going for it is a terrific ensemble cast. Jessica Chastain has become one of the most promising leading ladies working in Hollywood today, even if she does show up in the occasional garbage fire like The Huntsman: Winter's War. This movie isn't a garbage fire by any means and Jessica Chastain is easily the best thing in it. It is just a shame in some ways because this feels like a movie that under a different set of circumstances and with a different execution could have been an Oscar-worthy affair. As it stands, it is most certainly not. She is surrounded by a ton of great, established, as well as up-and-coming supporting cast members like Mark Strong, who is actually playing a good guy for once. Alison Pill, who starred in HBO's The Newsroom, also does a fine job but it is also interesting since this movie feels like it took a lot of cues from The Newsroom and she feels like a version of her character from that show. The rest of the cast is filled in very nicely with the likes of Sam Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and the always enjoyable John Lithgow. Whatever shortcomings Miss Sloane may have, none of them stem from the cast.

Ultimately, Miss Sloane leaves the viewer with questions, but not all the type of questions a political thriller of this nature, especially one as timely as this, should leave you with. It is hard to know exactly who or what to blame for the sheer averageness of this movie. Director John Madden does have an Oscar-winning Best Picture under his belt in the form of Shakespeare In Love (though many would argue that Oscar rightfully belongs to Saving Private Ryan). That movie doesn't necessarily make one think he is the right guy for a movie like this. But he has also tackled thrillers before, like The Debt, so it is hard to put that general sense of "this isn't bad, but it could be better" all on him.

At the end of the day, Miss Sloane isn't going to be included among the likes of The Manchurian Candidate or Argo. Not even close. It could definitely provide some entertainment value, no doubt, but it seems like a movie with this much to work with should accomplish more than what feels like slightly hollow entertainment. A lot more. With a lot of very good movies out right now and a lot more to come in the near future, it may be hard to justify spending the money to go out and see Miss Sloane. But if it winds up on a streaming service at some point it could definitely be worth a couple of hours for what thrills it does provide.