Miss Sloane opens with a clever gambit: Jessica Chastain's face fills the screen in a tight close-up as she talks about strategy, breaking the fourth wall. From its opening minutes, the audience is put at the mercy of a charismatic figure and forced to piece together what she might represent about our increasingly bizarre political landscape. Chastain, with her fiery red hair and forthright delivery, is often cast as the ambitious woman who takes no bullshit. In Zero Dark Thirty she brought down Bin Laden, and she returns in Miss Sloane with another politically charged livewire of a role, one not explicitly based on true events, but still resonant in unavoidable ways: Chastain plays a hyper-driven D.C. lobbyist pushing for stricter gun control laws.
As Elizabeth Sloane, she talks a mile a minute, and every aspect of her self-presentation -- blood-red lipstick, dark nail polish, sharply tailored suits, high heels -- suggests a powerful shield against the men who might attempt to talk her down. She's bristly, driven, and has little semblance of a personal life: Everything she does is strictly transactional.
That said, Miss Sloane, with all its Capitol Hill gloss, sometimes feels too much like a primetime political television drama. Mainstream cinema could always benefit from more complex women -- even this film could, as the character of Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who works with Elizabeth and becomes a pawn in her game of getting the gun control bill passed by any means necessary, is sadly underwritten compared to her superior.