Willing to bend the rules for her clients, Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) remains one of the most sought-after lobbyists in Washington, D.C. When asked to help oppose a bill that imposes regulations on firearms, she instead joins a scrappy boutique firm that represents the backers of the law. Her defiant stance and determination to win now makes her the target of powerful new enemies who threaten her career and the people she cares about.
I’m a big Jessica Chastain (The Huntsman Winter’s War aside) so I was excited when the first few trailers were released. They mostly featured her character, Elizabeth Sloane, at the forefront, monologuing her way through them. They gave us a glimpse at what was to come as Sloane plays a prominent role. The film was pretty much her then everybody else. Because of that, characters aren’t really character but more than a means to an end.
Sloane is an ambitious Washington D.C. lobbyist who leaves her own firm to join another after a crisis of conscience when she is asked to help counter a bill imposing regulations on firearms. Over the course of her career, Sloane has developed a reputation for her dedication and determination that drive her desire to win at any cost. From that fact, we learn that she is very cold and calculated.
People respect her for what she has accomplished but she is mostly detached from people due to her inability to have any relationships. She always seemed to have a plan and the people around her are resources for her to use whenever it would benefit her. Those people were not always aware of that fact. Of course she didn’t stay that way the whole time and we had moments to see more of a human side. We got to see that human side through a few key relationships with a fellow co-worker named Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and a male prostitute named Forde (Jake Lacy). Based on how she uses people to her benefit, maybe they weren’t exactly the most human moments.
The best part of the film had to be the back and forth between Sloane and her new firm and her former firm who were now working against her to oppose the firearm bill. In order to win, each firm had to court enough Senators on their side to either vote for or against the bill. This was fun to watch seeing that they each knew how the other worked so the process was more of a cat and mouse game where Sloane had to use every ounce of her cunning in order to outsmart them. The story started off with Sloane in the middle of a congressional hearing where she had to answer for her past actions and the bulk of the plot were the events leading up to it. It wouldn’t be much of a spoiler to say that those events are related.
Sloane on paper may appear to be an unlikable character although that was not exactly the case here. Her methods may not always be the most ethical and the way she treats other people may not always be the most appropriate but she is still great to watch. The fact that the other characters let her get away with so much may not be the most plausible but her reputation preceded her and they all understood that. She was likeable in that it was easy to relate to her for wanting to stand up for what was right and fight for what she believed in.
The story may not the best on paper but Chastain definitely elevates it with her presence. The film would not have worked as well as it did if it were anyone other than Chastain in the role. It felt like the film set her up to succeed in a performance that is sure to get some recognition come awards season. Her charisma and Sloane’s personality stole scenes by overwhelming the other characters but that’s not her fault as the script was set up that way. The dialogue came fast and furious so get ready.
Overall, this was a smart and exciting thriller, elevated by the great performance of Jessica Chastain.
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