It starts off with a court scene concerning expenses for a campaign dealing with palm oil from Indonesia. A viewer wonders what that could lead to, but the misdirection slowly becomes more obvious as they go back in time and two other themes develop; the legal concern of gun control and how lobbying firms operate.
Miss Sloane is approached by a group that wants to get a woman's view of guns so that they could slant their approach more effectively. She analyzes their situation in short order and rejects the offer. Next she is approached by a man who tries to hire her for the opposing side on gun control, but again another sharp analysis and a rejection. However she changes her mind and literally steals some of her staff to her new project regarding gun control legislation. One of her staff very coldly rejects her and a nasty interchange takes place. This holdout offers her insight into Miss Sloane's tactics that we later see enacted. No loyalty, ruthless, and not confiding with staff,
Miss Sloane articulates her basic approach. Always be prepared. Do whatever it takes. Have a trump card that is not used until after the opposition presents their trump card.
Although the director and writer claim the issue of gun control is really just one of many issues that could have been used for the plot they cover a lot of ground for gun control. There is not an intention to confiscate guns, but just to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. Of course the gun lobby sees this a step along a slippery slope.
The woman's issue is brought up. The angle is women need protection against bad people. This is countered that women are murdered most often by an intimate partner with access to a gun. The gun lobby specifically fanned fear suggesting the only way to be safe was to have a gun. All veteran sales people realize that the strongest buying motive is fear, even more so than greed. Both motivations are on full display.
An argument comparing the acceptance of the need for driver's licence as a concern for human safety is dismissed. In reality the U.S. Congress in 1996 passed a rule forbidding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from advocating or promoting gun control. The CDC board over the years to avoid controversy cut all research into gun violence After the Newtown shootings, Obama requested research to be resumed, but again fearing controversy the CDC said they would only do so if money was set aside for it. Congress rejected any budget for such research.
The Founding Fathers were brought up. Most people overlook that the circumstances were very different as one example many of the founders were slave owners. The Constitution was a result of compromises between propertied men (not women) with vested interests. The 2nd amendment was brought to legislation at a time when America did not have a standing army and it was thought necessary to provide militia with arms. Of course there is a lot of controversy of interpretation. What is in the best interest of the country?
The gun lobby always had much more money. They really represented gun manufacturers. Miss Sloane is very clever and manages to get a lot of her points to public attention. In fact she is so good it is decided to take her down. That is where the opening scene brings our attention to an alleged misdeed when she dealt with the Indonesian palm oil. If they can prove her misdeed in this case she will be finished as a lobbyist and the gun lobby can rest easy.
Of course you know there will be a twist and it is done quite well. A few minor twists along the way keep the viewer's attention. My wife is always suspicious, but I thought the movie could have impact no matter how it concluded. The final twist package emphasized how slimy lobbying can be and did catch me off guard.
"House of Cards" shows plenty of sleazy manipulations Lobbyists are in the background. "Miss Sloane" uses an emotionally charged issue, gun control, but the real focus should be on lobbying, which has seldom been pictured in movies where the politicians essentially do all the dirty work.
John Madden, the director, British born received his one Oscar nomination for "Shakespeare in Love," (1998), but three of his actors won Oscars, Gwyneth Paltrow, Judi Dench and Geoffrey Rush. He also directed 4 episodes of "Inspector Morse," and one episode of "Prime Suspect," two of my favorite British detective shows. Other notable movies were "The Debt," (2010), "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2011) and "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," (2015).
Jessica Chastain plays the ruthless lobbyist. When you think you appreciate how ruthless she is you get another example that stuns. With a little observation a viewer might pick up that she is not satisfied with life. Jessica had received two Oscar nominations in addition for this role. She received nominations for "Zero Dark Thirty," (2012) and "The Help," (2011). She also had a role in "The Martian," (2015).
Mark Strong plays a character with a cause, but enough ethics that he balks at when he learns what Miss Sloan does to win her causes. Mark has been in numerous movies; "The Young Victoria," (2004); "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," (2011); "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012) and "The Imitation Game," (2014). He also appeared in episodes of "Inspector Morse" and "Prime Suspect."
Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a dedicated worker with a personal secret that motivates her. When this is uncovered against her will she becomes a crusader for a bit, but later becomes disillusioned with Miss Sloan. Gugu gained a lot of attention as the title character in "Belle," (2013) and went on to "Concussion" (2015) and " Free State of Jones" (2016). Just recently did a blog on the Free State of Jones" readers might enjoy: http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2017/09/free-state-of-jones.html
Christine Baranski of "The Good Fight" and "The Good Wife" in both of which she ironically took up role of gun control advocate, although married to ballistics expert. played a supporting role. I was surprised to learn she had won Tony awards on Broadway. Sam Waterson, another familiar face played one of the heavies. John Lithgow and Dylan Baker had supporting roles as well.
Alison Pill, plays a character who is not what she appears to be. She carries it off very well. Born in Toronto she won a best child actress award for "The Dinosaur Hunt," (2000). She had roles in "Milk" (2008); "Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010) "Midnight in Paris," as Zelda Fitzgerald (2011) and "To Rome with Love" (2012).
Max Richter composed the music. He has been a composer for a number of movies I have enjoyed."The Lunchbox" (2013); "Sarah's Key" (2010); "When We Leave" (2010) and "Lore" (2012) all with foreign languages plus "Shutter Island," (2010). The funny thing is although I remember they all were good movies, I don't recall the music. I reviewed some of the music items on iTunes and for the most part they are pleasant enough and catch a mood, but with few exceptions not memorable. Still he is very good at filling a function. Supporting a movie with music is not always noticed, but adds to the overall enjoyment and I would say he has added enjoyment for a lot of movie goers.
The cinematographer, Sebastian Bienkov had been busy working with European films, one of which "Adam's Apples" (2005) from Denmark was very good. Alexander Berner, the editor had worked on "Cloud Atlas," (2012); "A Hologram for the King," (2016) and "The Debt" (2010).
Did the gun lobby have anything to do with lack of box office success? One can detect political views affecting how movies are perceived and supported--I am not immune to movies being hyped and I did see some promotional efforts, but it was never treated like a blockbuster. It seems like an attention getting powerful movie, but not everyone saw it that way. Personally I feel lobbyists didn't like it as it hit too close to home. If there wasn't a formal boycott, I think it very likely there was an informal one. I confess I tend to avoid movies with political viewpoints I disagree with, but also that such movies can help one realize there is another perspective that needs to be understood.
I do believe that lobbyists can serve an important and useful function. I hope we don't throw out the baby with the bath water. http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/04/lobbyists-do-deserve-more-appreciation.html
The film titles that are bolded are ones that I have seen, although some may be from many years ago