I must confess, I had a bit of a special reason for wanting to watch this particular movie. I initially learned about it not via trailer, but via Steven Crowder. But then I did eventually watch the trailer.
So, plot synopsis. The film is about a woman named Miss Sloan who is very good at swaying public opinion and politicians to get them on the side of whichever political entity she is currently employed by. She has a team who works for her, they research information, and go to events and visit people to encourage them to vote one way or another. It’s politics, so it gets dirty at times.
The film is also a character study, as most films named after the lead protagonist tend to be. Miss Sloane is played by Jessica Chastain, who you may recognize as Matthew McConaughey’s daughter, Murphy, in the film Interstellar (the mid-life daughter, not the granny or youngest version), and as that one lady who wanted Osama Bin Laden dead in Zero Dark Thirty. She pretty much plays the same hardass stern cold determined role here that she did in those movies, except her hardassness, sternness, coldness, and determinedness (I know, that’s not really a word) shoots up exponentially in this movie. A character who’s strengths lie in doing her job (lobbying) exceedingly well, but at the expense (ie the weaknesses she has) of taking speed pills to keep herself sharp and awake, pretty much having no friends, and unwilling to go into a deep relationship with anyone. At one point in the movie she states that she was forced to be this way at a young age to survive, for reasons that are unknown, which is probably a good thing.
And of course, at times, we see the rare glimpses of cracks in her cold hard exterior to show that a part of her hates being this manipulative to people, but at the same time she continues on, because that’s the way it has to be for her. Because she believes this is ultimately the right thing to do, much like how it’s the right thing to do to take on the big political/corporate entities on this particular political issue. We’ve seen films like these before, a determined underdog going up against the big bad rich people, but we haven’t seen one done with Jessica Chastain as the lead protagonist. Believe me, this makes a big difference. A big powerhouse, a flawless performance, easily one of the best of the year (of 2016). Without her, this movie wouldn’t be as strong as it is.
That being said, this film has some faults. The main one being the cause she takes up, the issue that she believes to be fighting on the right side of.
The particular issue she decides to fight for is gun control.
As in she believes passing a law that supports greater gun control is a good thing.
Even to the point of saying that the second amendment is likely flawed and imperfect, and created in a different time period in a different society that we live in now, and thus is unnecessary in this day and age. Never mind that the second amendment is about having guns for the sake of overthrowing the government if it becomes too corrupt, something that the film doesn’t seem to be aware of.
Let’s just say this viewpoint brings the movie down for me. If this had been about some other subject, like going against Monsanto, or going for/against abortion (I’m honestly sympathetic to both sides of that argument), or something, I’d be more on board with this. But nope, this is a pro-gun control film. It doesn’t get too much into the specifics of what the gun control measure actually is, it just states that it will make gun control laws that are in place in some states more universal across all states, a federal law. You know, like Chicago.
But the film doesn’t bring up the Chicago argument, or even the statistics argument. Such as how statistics show how more guns equals less crime, or how women with guns are more likely to prevent crimes committed against them than women without guns (John R. Lott’s book More Guns, Less Crime discusses this in very dry boring depth that is nothing but statistics, but it does get the point across; not the only book he’s written on the subject). The movie tends to be more on the emotional side of things.
Now, the fact that the movie doesn’t bring up the counter-arguments in a fair light is bad enough, but it also shoots itself in the foot (pun intended) with this one little plot development in the middle of the movie. There’s this woman on Miss Sloane’s lobbying team who is also a survivor of a school shooting massacre from 1998 (take a guess). She becomes a public figure for “Women against guns”, or something like that. Then some crazy guy shows up with a gun and threatens to kill her. This moment is silly and not pulled off naturally enough, but that becomes a moot point when a concerned citizen with a concealed firearm kills the lunatic. And then public opinion becomes more swayed in favor of less gun control, since the gun laws didn’t stop the lunatic from purchasing the gun. And the concerned citizen obtained his firearm legally. And not once does this deter anyone on Miss Sloane’s lobbying team about their position or beliefs. In fact, I think the film is supposed to let the viewer think, “Oh, this is just an anomaly, generally there shouldn’t be citizens with guns to prevent crime from happening by criminals with guns,” mainly because the antagonists, the big pro-gun political entity (the film doesn’t ever say NRA, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s supposed to represent) are all like, “This man is a gift from God,” except it’s said in a way that comes off as, “Oh no, the bad guys of the movie are winning!” I honestly don’t know why the movie would have this plot development in it. Does it not realize how much this hurt’s the protagonist’s case?
Anyway, the pro-gun lobbyists. Obviously they’re portrayed as assholes. Because there isn’t a real grey area in this argument according to this movie. That’s all I’ll say.
All the anti/pro-gun argument stuff aside, there’s one other fault in the movie. Normally I’d say this is where the spoilers begin, except that the film pretty much let’s you know right from the beginning that there’s going to be some twist reveal that will make Miss Sloane’s cause come out on top of all this. You can see that in a speech she gives in the trailer, the same “talk to the camera” speech is shown at the very beginning of the movie. And it’s a dumb fucking twist when you really think about it. She’s being questioned by a Senate Subcommittee, and she reveals that the main Senator who has been questioning her is in league with the gun lobbyists, after they coerced/blackmailed him into doing this, and she brings up video/audio evidence of this secret/illegal meeting.
So, here’s the problem. That is a big fucking stretch. Why did the gun lobbyists have to blackmail a guy into questioning Miss Sloane about her illegal activities? Why not just get some Senator who is on their side? The whole, “You’re the best one for the job,” argument seems to have more cons than pros in this case, don’t you think?
Overall, this film isn’t as terrible as I wanted it to be, but it’s still not as fantastic as it thinks it is either, despite the fact that it’s very well directed, paced good enough, and has Jessica Chastain giving what is probably the best performance of her career. Too many flaws in logic. And I’m glad it bombed at the box office, to be honest.
That being said, allow me to bring up a counter-argument in the form of a film. A counter-film, if you will…
So this film is basically Death Wish with Jodie Foster instead of Charles Bronson. She nearly gets beaten to death by thugs, her fiance gets killed by thugs, and she gets a gun on the black market to protect herself and to eventually get revenge on said thugs.
And the film has this line of dialogue come up after she’s killed a few people:
Did you see the pictures of that subway thing?
He shot another the other night. Some pervert or something.
Who will they go for next? Donald Trump?
I shit you not, that dialogue exchange is in the film. I was laughing my ass off.
Aaahhhhhhhh. Anyway, the film pretty much counters Miss Sloane in every way, while also being a good vigilante revenge thriller that doesn’t entirely glorify being a vigilante, unlike Death Wish, or Boondock Saints. She is never proud of herself. And she realizes she’s sliding down the slippery slope of going from self-defense to outright murder, even if the victim may deserve it. And there’s that dog on a leash symbolism.
The directing and camerawork is decent for the most part. It tilts from the left to the right at times to give a disorienting feel, which works after she’s been beaten to a pulp and begins turning into a vigilante, but I found it questionable in the one or two scenes it happens in prior to that.
Jodie Foster is great in the role, obviously. She’s always great (except maybe in Elysium). She manages to express many emotions during her role, from panic, to calm coldness, anger, sadness, trying to maintain control, shock, etc. Perfect for a vigilante role where the character has conflicting emotions about what she is doing.
She has conversations with a police officer, and both can relate to one another. Both had their lives changed after some incident in the past. There’s also a couple scenes where people are expressing their reaction to the vigilante killings, which is pulled off better than in the credits sequence of Boondock Saints.
And that is how vigilante films should be done. Not glorifying killing, showing that it has consequences regardless if the murdered individual deserved it. The only other one I’ve seen that did it nearly as well as this is the underrated Death Sentence, which starred Kevin Bacon.
Despite the film not glorifying vigilantes, it does make the case as to why people (especially women) should be able to carry concealed firearms. Though I’m not so sure it’s stating that the way Jodie Foster’s character got a hold of a gun is the right way to do it (she tries to get one at a gun shop, but they state she needs a gun license, needs to fill out a form, and wait 30 days), but it does pretty much state that people can get guns off the black market, making the argument that gun control laws aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in some form of gun control. It wouldn’t be right just to have any schmuck off the street just be able to get one. There’s more control than that, even in states with less strict gun control measures. But the best thing is that this film makes the case as to why women should be allowed to have firearms, so that they don’t get bullied, harassed, or even raped/killed. Case in point:
And another case in point:
Overall, recommended. That is all.
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