Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow, Alison Pill, Sam Waterston
Directed By: John Madden
Plot: Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is a lobbyist working for a high powered firm when she is offered the chance to join a smaller firm fighting to get a mandatory background check bill passed in Congress. She surprisingly takes the chance, and launches an all out battle against her former employer. Behold the power of lobbyists.
What Works: This film bombed at the box office, tanking Chastain’s chances at Oscar glory. It’s a shame, because she gives a tour de force performance here. This whole film is crafted as a love letter to Chastain’s ability. The supporting cast are all good in their roles, but none of them are really given big showy moments (except, perhaps, Raw). What you have here is not so much a film as it is a testament to how good Chastain can be in the right role. She’s had so many good roles so far, ranging from things like The Help to Zero Dark Thirty. Miss Sloane completely taps every part of her being to bring a fully realized, amazing character to the screen. Sure, her character isn’t likable, but you would definitely want her on your side. I loved watching the events of this film unfold. The ended blew me away, not realizing how absurdly well crafted this film was. This film is technically about the gun lobby, but it actually isn’t. I honestly believe you could have swapped gun lobby for tobacco industry, environment protection, or any other hot button topic. This film is about lobbying and one very good lobbyist. If you avoided this film because you think gun legislation is too hot button for you, you’re missing out on the point. This film isn’t about guns, it’s about something far bigger than that.
What Doesn’t Work: I think the film takes a moment to get going, but once Sloane starts rolling, she’s like the boulder in Indiana Jones. She becomes an unstoppable force that is barrelling toward its conclusion. So, if you can make it through the first fourth of the film, which sets up this world, you’ll be fine. I actually had no idea what I was in for, because the first part was so much like the calm before the storm. Also, I like Jake Lacy, I do. I don’t know why he was saddled with a southern accent for this film. His character didn’t need it, and it was so silly. He sounded like a cartoon character at times. Don’t force actors to do accents they aren’t comfortable with when the accent isn’t required for the film. Lacy would have been just fine in his normal voice, and the role would have been just as believable.
Final Word: This surprised me. I assumed the reason it was written off was because it wasn’t a very good Oscar bait film. I think it was written off because it featured a hot button topic and everyone got scared. That and this is a very hard film to market aside from just pushing Chastain’s performance. But a solid script and an amazing performance from Chastain make this a very easy recommend.
Final Grade: A-