Jessica Chastain (as Elizabeth Sloan)’s excellent performance anchors this interesting political drama. Elizabeth Sloan is a top-tier Washington D.C. lobbyist employed by a conservative lobbyist firm. She is ruthless, obsessed with winning, and will seemingly do just about anything to triumph, including covert surveillance and public humiliation of colleagues. She is, however, extremely intelligent and cunning. Sloan has sacrificed her personal life for her career. She has no friends and gets her sexual needs met via male escorts, such as Forde (Jake Lacy).
The gun lobby hires Sloan’s firm and her boss, George Dupont (Sam Waterston), puts Sloan in charge of defeating a newly proposed bill to put restrictions on gun purchases. Sloan, however, is approached by the head of the lobbying firm for the bill, Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), and asks her to leave her firm and work for him to get the bill passed. Sloan, excited by the challenge of pulling off a nearly-impossible victory, surprisingly resigns from her firm and goes to work for Schmidt!
Sloan’s decision, however, infuriates the gun lobby, and they decide try to destroy her career by uncovering an ethical violation and then reporting her to the Senate ethics committee. The film begins with the convening of the Ethics Committee hearing and then re-winds to cover the events leading up to this situation.
The movie is primarily a character study of Sloan, and Chastain’s Academy-Award-Worthy performance carries it. In lesser hands, the film wouldn’t have worked nearly as well. Chastain plays a woman seemingly without a heart or conscience, but she artfully, at times, reveals considerable vulnerability under her nearly-impenetrable armor.
The film, however, doesn’t reveal what happened to Sloan to make her the way she is, so we have no insight as to what motivates her or what makes her terrified of attachment and intimacy. This deficiency prevented it from being one of the Top 20 films of 2016, but it’s still worth seeing on the BS now. If you decide to see it, though, bring a friend – because one should “never Sloan alone.”