John Madden's MISS SLOANE
Updated through 12/1.
"Further evidence of the Aaron Sorkinization of American screenwriting, Miss Sloane is a talky, tense political thriller, full of verbal sparring and fiery monologues, undone by a really dumb ending," finds Variety's Peter Debruge. "But that doesn’t mean it isn’t smart for most of its running time. Constructed like a magic act by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera, with tricks up every sleeve that keep audiences guessing, this twisty peek inside the sausage factory of American politics features characters who talk faster than most people think. Plus, it’s engaging—make that downright electrifying—to watch a female star as strong as Jessica Chastain carry a film about a DC lobbyist who risks her reputation for a cause she believes in."
But for Screen's Tim Grierson, "Miss Sloane is a shallow but lively thriller which becomes undermined by its makers’ misplaced belief in the profundity of their topical tale." It "has its fair share of wild twists and juicy political strategizing… But for all its superficial pleasures, Miss Sloane is entirely too enamored with its unconvincing air of insider-y intrigue, resulting only in pat lessons about the corrupting influence of money in government."
"At the center," explains the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, "is the never-ending battle over gun control as seen from ground zero, that is, in the trenches with the politicians and influence peddlers who are the ones who will determine what, if any, legislation will ever get past the entrenched gun lobby…. At the eye of the hurricane is Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), a gloriously terrifying monster who has evidently devoted all of her 40 or so years to accumulating a put-down for every occasion and compiling a mental bank of the vulnerabilities of everyone in the nation's capital…. Madden, who worked with Chastain on The Debt six years ago, maintains a rigorous grip on the narrative and characterizations. He and cinematographer Sebastian Blenkoff have employed a very hard-edged visual style that further amplifies the prevailing mentality and milieu."
"With another actor in the part," writes the Guardian's Nigel M Smith, "Sloane could have come across as a stereotype: a robotic workaholic with no interior life. Chastain overcomes Perera’s at-times crass characterization by imbuing her with an undercurrent of melancholy…. The actor doesn’t sweat to earn sympathy; it’s Sloane’s tenacity that demands it. It’s a brave approach, and it works."
Update, 11/14: At RogerEbert.com, Jana Monji finds Miss Sloane to be "a brisk, intelligent thriller, a cat-and-mouse game. We're never quite privy to Sloane's inner most thoughts, but we understand that being good at her job isn't good for her or anyone. What is good for everyone is this portrait of a strong, polished woman in control and making hard decisions."
Update, 11/20: "Miss Sloane seems custom-designed to forever go in the dictionary to illustrate the definition of 'political thriller,' so thoroughly does it fit all the expectations of that genre," writes Daniel Schindel at the Film Stage. "Madden cribs directly from the Washington, D.C. cinematic playbook, mixing handhelds and back-and-forth dialog cuts overlaid with omnipresent blue and grey color tones. It looks and feels less like a film and more like a feature-length pilot for a new TV series which happens to have a stacked cast."
Updates, 11/24: "In the raging television-vs.-movies debates, television seems to be winning, especially when it comes to the quality of the writing," writes Time's Stephanie Zacharek. "Miss Sloane, which moves fast and is heavy on intricate, pinwheeling, Aaron Sorkin-style dialogue, appears to be trying to eat some of TV’s lunch. But if the sprawling, novelistic quality of a good television series is part of its appeal, there’s something equally satisfying in sitting down to a drama that you know is going to be wrapped up neatly in less than two hours. Storytelling efficiency is one of Miss Sloane’s most effective calling cards—that, and Chastain."
"Chastain is a great actress, but with Miss Sloane, she also proves that she’s a great movie star," agrees Nick Schager at the Playlist.
Chastain "naturally projects complicated intelligence," grants Jesse Hassenger at the AV Club. "She also has the sort of charisma that can fill gaps in underwritten roles and Elizabeth Sloane is, if anything, overwritten. So why does Chastain still feel vaguely miscast, even as she commands the screen?"
Abbey Bender for the Voice: "The November release date and the film's focus on an ambitious woman of politics make it clear that Miss Sloane was expected to greet America in the wake of a newly elected woman president; our new reality lends the film a strange heaviness."
Writing for the New York Times, Bruce Fretts wonders, "has the story of a tough woman trying to make a difference in Washington been overtaken by current events? The filmmakers acknowledge that their project plays very differently than it would have had Hillary Clinton defeated Mr. Trump. But they say they can’t control how Miss Sloane will be perceived by filmgoers and critics in light of the election outcome. 'This is a movie predicated on the idea of surprise,' the thriller’s director, John Madden, said last week. 'But few developments could have been more surprising than the election results. For some reason, in film, being upended can be a very pleasurable experience, where in real life it often isn’t.'"
Update, 11/25: "The biggest problem is not the film's fault," argues Sheila O'Malley at RogerEbert.com. "Opening as it does two weeks after the ugliest election in US history (although the election of 1800 would give it—and any other—a run for its money in that regard), Miss Sloane feels almost quaint now, even with its ends-justify-the-means cynicism, even with its vision of life on The Hill as a ruthless battle to win at all costs. The film is not so much tone-deaf as old-fashioned, emerging from a more innocent time (say, three weeks ago) when 'politics as usual' actually had some meaning."