Intrigue and drama in high-level politics
On another site I do cursory and critical reviews of movies with an eye toward picking apart issues with cinematography, directing, continuity, performances, and writing. When I come across a production as clean and as compelling as this one, I examine it here on Specular Photography. I’m not going to lay out the plot, but I will give some insight into the qualities that make this highly viewable.
It’s Miss Sloane, and I watched it earlier this month on Amazon Prime video. It appears to have had a limited release last year. The script by Jonathan Perera is what succeeds in giving this production life. Details are from Wikipedia, which lists FilmNation Entertainment as the principal production company. To understand the story, you need to walk through the guiding manifesto, outlined by Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) in the opening shot. From IMDb:
Lobbying is about foresight. About anticipating your opponent’s moves and devising counter measures. The winner plots one step ahead of the opposition. And plays her trump card just after they play theirs. It’s about making sure you surprise them. And they don’t surprise you.
Keeping that in mind, you get an appreciation of all that follows.
We see Elizabeth Sloan testifying before a Senate ethics panel chaired by Senator Ronald Sperling (John Lithgow). She is being grilled on possible violations by her on the part of lobbying concern Cole Kravitz & Waterman.
We go back several months to when Sloane is asked to head up a move to defeat the so-called Heaton-Harris bill. Heaton-Harris calls for strict background checks before sale of a firearm is allowed. Opposition to the bill is being underwritten by a gun manufacturer, who wants to get women to oppose it. It’s a theme seen common with the National Rifle Association. Women need guns to protect themselves from assault.
Quite soon Sloane is approached by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), who heads up the lobbying firm Peterson Wyatt. They are working to get the bill passed, and they want Sloane to work for them.
In a surprise move, Sloane announces she is leaving Cole Kravitz & Waterman, and she is taking her loyal team with her. In a dramatic conference room scene, all her critical team members stand up and prepare to leave with her. All, that is, except one. Jane Molloy (Alison Pill) announces she elects to stay rather than put in her lot with such a risky venture.
The intrigue begins. Sloane’s team must garner a sizable fraction of uncommitted senators, and they begin work, scoring one at a time. It’s a race against time. A vote is scheduled in a few weeks.
Sloane is seen as a fanatical campaigner, hard as nails, living life on the edge, committing every available moment, it seems. For romance she relies on a rent-a-hunk service.
One thing puzzling me is Sloane’s makeup. For some reason it was deemed advisable for her face to sport a layer of white base. Suggestions welcome.
There is double dealing. Sloane lays a trap. She arranges for plans to be discussed. The opposition seems aware of those plans. Sloane summarily dismisses a team member found to be working for the opposition.
No good plot sails smoothly. One of Sloane’s team, Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) turns out to have been the survivor of a mass shooting. Sloane exploits her story to gain support for the bill. In a dramatic turn, Manucharian is stalked and assaulted by a right-wing gun nut, who is apparently upset by the exploitation of her story. He is about to kill her on the street when a gun-carrying civilian shoots him dead. It’s an obvious vindication of the argument that civilians need to carry guns for protection against criminals. The publicity is a devastating blow to the effort to get senators on board.
The gun lobbyist swings Senator Sperling toward opposition of the bill by offering massive campaign support. He initiates the aforementioned investigation of ethics violations by Sloane. But Sloane’s manifesto serves to defeat the Senator’s ploy, and Sloane has laid a trap, which she springs during the hearings. Opposition to the bill is crushed by her revelations.
However, to set up the trap, Sloane has previously committed a deliberate ethics violation by personally signing a voucher that associates her with a disallowed payment. That violation was the basis for Sperling ‘s investigation, but it earns Sloane some time in the federal slam. The movie ends with Sloane’s release from jail.
And there is not much to find fault with this production. Acting is first rate, and the plot is Machiavellian and gripping. An odd feature is Sloane’s employment of the male prostitute. Viewers will wonder why a first class hide like Sloane needs to pay somebody to dip his wick. An explanation is that this provides additional color to her character, of which not much additional is needed. Also, Sloane’s odd facial makeup was never explained to me.