Jessica Chastain, photograph via IGN
Miss Sloane is a study in female ambition. The take-no-prisoners kind of ambition. The power-suits-and-power-heels ambition. The things-exist-in-shades-of-gray ambition. It stars Jessica Chastain as the titular character and the actress — who just this week nabbed an award at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and is nominated for a Golden Globe, too — absolutely rocks the role.

Which isn’t to say her character is the sort of protagonist you root for unfailingly. We’re not even sure we can call her a protagonist, really. Elizabeth Sloane is a high-powered lobbyist — a job described in the film as “the most morally bankrupt profession since faith healing” — who is coolly Machiavellian, willing to do everything and anything it takes to win in the boys’ club political circles of Washington D.C. “Treacherous,” “ruthless,” and “soulless” are just a few adjectives used by the press to describe her; “a piece of work” is how some of the movie’s characters do.

Miss Sloane opens as Sloane is being cross-examined in a Senate hearing, then flashes back a few months to the plot’s true origins. Sloane is asked by her boss, played by the fantastic Sam Waterston, to take on a pro-gun client who’s looking to curry favor with women. She refuses, jumps ship and goes to work for the other side, helping to push a bill for gun control. But things, as mentioned, aren’t so black and white. You get the sense that the noble cause is just a fraction of the motive; she also wants to stick it to her old firm, and doesn’t hesitate to win by any means (read: shady, scheming, duplicitous means). You root for her, but then you also sort of feel guilty about it. And that tension keeps you glued to the unfolding drama, right down to the twist ending. We won’t spoil anything here except to quote Sloane in an early scene: “Lobbying is about foresight, about anticipating your opponent’s moves, and devising counter measures. The winner walks one step ahead of the opposition. It’s about making sure you surprise them, and they don’t surprise you.”

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