Jessica Chastain gives a Golden Globe®-nominated performance in this suspenseful story set in the high-stakes world of American politics. Brilliant, ruthless Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is Washington's most sought-after lobbyist. But when she faces her most formidable opponent yet, she risks everything – even her career – in this illuminating story about power and the desire to win at all costs.
Miss Sloane is one of those movies that I found to be rather mundane and forgettable and I was preparing to give it a "Rent It" recommendation in this review. Then, in the final 10 minutes, it did something so insulting and completely unbelievable that it totally changed my mood about this film. I went from a dismissive attitude to one of sheer dislike. The majority of this movie is uninteresting, but the final scenes are just downright insulting.
Of course, even if I dislike a movie, I'd never dream of giving spoliers away, so I'll try to navigate around them while still giving readers a sense of what happens. First off, even this critic won't deny that the talent involved here is of a top-notch quality. You probably already know that two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain leads the cast, but also included are such talented thespians as John Lithgow and Sam Waterston. The movie is directed by Oscar-nominated John Madden, who has helmed a number of critical successes, not the least of them being 1998's Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love. No, the major flaws with Miss Sloane are all story related.
Chastain plays one of Washington, D.C.'s most influential and noteworthy lobbyists. She works for a big firm and, as the movie opens, viewers already know she's gotten herself into trouble, as she's scheduled to appear in front of a Congressional hearing headed up by Senator Ronald Sperling (John Lithgow). She's been encouraged to take the Fifth Amendment when asked any questions (so the audience also knows she's probably guilty of what she's being questioned about), but can't hold her tongue when Sen. Sperling starts delving into her personal problems.
Hence, the majority of the story is told in flashback (with occasional jumps back to the hearing), where we see Sloane being asked to represent a gun manufacturer and help lobby for the rejection of a new bill going through Congress that will expand background checks for persons wishing to buy a firearm. Sloane refuses, which more than angers her boss and the head of the firm, George Dupont (Sam Waterston). Instead, Sloane accepts an offer from a smaller, rival firm, headed up by Rodolpho Schmidt (Mark Strong) in order to lobby for the bill's passage. She also takes most of her supporting staff from Dupont's firm with her.
Despite seemingly doing the right thing morally, the character of Sloane comes off as completely unlikeable for the vast majority of this movie. She harsh, abrasive, and totally unfeeling towards those around her...although most of those around her are pretty unlikeable characters as well. They all talk in what appears to be an attempt to sound like an Aaron Sorkin production, but the dialogue doesn't have near the wordplay or appeal of something written by Sorkin. So basically we get two hours of people talking in ways no real human beings talk. I was annoyed at the five-minute mark.
But the real crime of this movie is in the way it tries to twist things around at the end of the film, giving us a surprise ending that, quite honestly, the story hasn't earned. Instead, we feel tricked and deceived, and not in a good way – like we would in an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Not only is the twist unearned, it unfolds in such a soap opera-y melodramatic way, even if you did take the rest of the film seriously and perhaps enjoyed it, you're unlikely to have a positive reaction to the conclusion. Miss Sloane is technically well-made and its actors are doing their best, but the story is so dull and (later on) preposterous, the movie just feels like a big waste of everyone's time – including any viewer who sits through this.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Miss Sloane lobbies its way onto home video in this Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. The 50GB Blu-ray and dual-layer DVD come housed inside an eco-friendly Elite keepcase, along with an insert containing a code for a digital copy of the movie. A slipcover with artwork matching the keepcase's cover slides overtop. Both the Blu-ray and the DVD are front-loaded with trailers for Hidden Figures, Jackie, and Rules Don't Apply. The main menu of the Blu-ray features a montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections horizontally across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray in this release is Region A locked.
Miss Sloane was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa XT Plus and is presented here in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. As is the case with most movies shot on Arri digital equipment, the amount of detail and "pop" that are provided depends largely on how well lit the scene in question is. There are some scenes in the movie that take place in offices that are stunningly sharp and others (like a hotel room the main character frequents) that are pretty flat looking. Black levels, however, are pretty decent throughout, so noise is never really an issue – nor are other frequent problems like aliasing or banding.
There are a number of scenes in the movie (like the hearing sequences) that take on that blue/teal or "cool" color composition that so many other movies seem to follow these days. Oddly though, this isn't consistent throughout (locations/scenes are consistent, but different locations take on different compositions), so who knows what the filmmakers were thinking? Overall, there's not much to complain about here, but the image still isn't in reference-quality territory.
The sole audio option on this release is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track and, honestly, that's all a movie such as this one really needs. As you may have suspected, Miss Sloane is a dialogue-heavy film, with almost all of it coming from the front and center speaker, although clear and well-rendered. The surrounds are primarily used to enhance the musical score from composer Max Richter, for some ambient noises, and to occasionally amp up a sound effect or two (there are a few gunshots in the movie, for example).
This is a solid, if unspectacular audio presentation, with no noticeable glitches.
Subtitles are available in English SDH and Spanish.
Lobbying: Winning by Any Means (HD 10:53) – This is a standard, "talking heads" behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie, with comments from Director John Madden, Writer Jonathan Perera, Producer Ben Browning, real-life Lobbying Consultant Adam Blickstein, and stars Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mark Strong, and Alison Pill.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:24) – The original theatrical trailer for Miss Sloane.
Despite plenty of talent both in front of and behind the camera, Miss Sloane offers up a lackluster story and characters most audiences won't care about. I'm usually a big fan of political drama, but this movie failed to engage me – then insulted me with its melodramatic conclusion. Skip It.