Hired Guns

Lobbyists fight over firearm control in Miss Sloane

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Miss Sloane
Opens Friday 9

Of the many travesties already perpetrated by the incoming Trump administration, appointing lobbyists to positions of power might be the most irritating. During the presidential campaign, the Orange One promised he’d eradicate “special interest groups” from Washington. So much for that.

Of course, this blatant hypocrisy has done nothing to discourage Donald’s base, who are not known for being discerning. Or intelligent. Or sentient.

The delightfully written Miss Sloane reveals the inner workings of the lobby business by following the title character as she navigates the choppy waters surrounding firearms regulation. The film doesn’t really care about gun control — all that matters are the smart, self-serving individuals bent on one-upping each other.

Elizabeth Sloane (a magnificent Jessica Chastain) is the queen bee of this crowd. The best political strategist in DC, Sloane abandons her cushy job at the top firm in Washington following an offer from a pro-gun special interest group (the NRA is hinted at, but never mentioned by name). Not only does she reject their proposal, she moves to the opposite side — where she schemes to manipulate Congress and public opinion into voting to make access to firearms more difficult.

It’s a high-stakes fight and nothing is off-limits: not personal lives, public stunts or surveillance. Sloane’s strategy is to remain one step ahead of everyone else and save her trump card until after her opponents have played all of theirs. Miss Sloane unfolds swiftly and mercilessly.

The film is good at building political intrigue but it excels at creating a complex main character who, as ruthless as she is, remains relatable and human. Elizabeth has rejected the idea of a personal life (works 20-hour days, pays for sex) and is a heavy amphetamine user. Moral qualms don’t prevent her from using people to advance her agenda, but she does feel regret. Also, she knows her lifestyle is taking a toll on her body. This is a shark without the constitution of one.

Chastain is supported by a fantastic cast that include vets Sam Waterston and John Lithgow and up-and-comers like Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alison Pill. The thick dialogue doesn’t flow as gracefully as in an Aaron Sorkin-penned flick, but it has lots of insights into how lobbyists operate. Their manipulation of the 24-hour news cycle is particularly illuminating — you would think news channels could see past this, but Trump’s victory proved they can’t.

Funny thing, Elizabeth Sloane is actually a decent role model: reacts strongly against mansplaining, dictates her own terms and is always the smartest person in the room. More importantly, she recognizes pettiness as a handicap and knows how to exploit it.

More than a plot twist, the ending makes you rethink the entire experience — a second sit-through may be in order. If you crave intelligence in your entertainment, Miss Sloane is easily one of the most satisfactory experiences you’ll have at the multiplex this year.