Ah, the courtroom drama – a perennially absorbing sub-genre, with endeavours illuminating the screen from as far as back as 12 Angry Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, to the likes of Harrison Ford’s Witness, or Primal Fear, and even Liar Liar. John Madden’s Miss Sloane thrives in this very capacity, and is structured intelligently, as we begin in court, to then proceed into flashbacks as the viewer pieces this tale together, and understand how the eponymous protagonist found herself in this perilous situation – only to then catch up with ourselves for the grand finale.
Jessica Chastain is the formidable Elizabeth Sloane, who finds herself in court over a seemingly trivial matter, transpiring to be a mere diversion tactic, as the ruthless, influential lobbyist seems to gaining some headway in her battle to successfully bring a new legislation through Congress to ensure there are background checks on gun-owners. Despite coming up against a far more powerful opponent, nobody can underestimate this woman’s will to come out on top, as she strives tirelessly alongside colleagues Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) and Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), in a complex case set across a high-stakes, unforgiving political landscape.
With a screenplay unashamedly inspired by Aaron Sorkin, instead the dialogue penned by Jonathan Perera is somewhat more contrived, with a myriad of unnatural, perfect zingers peppered into this picture, as the viewer is forced to suspend their disbelief, and appreciate that nobody really talks like this in real life, and not allow for it to become detrimental. As we progress towards the latter stages, and the drama really kicks in, so unabashed in its approach, it allows for the film to be let off the hook for its overtly cinematic tendencies. Not every film has to revel in naturalism, and this picture is evidently aware of that fact. That said, the rapid delivery of lines, with full conversations completed while on the move, eye contact at a bare minimum – does enrich the piece, for it enhances the haphazard, stress-inducing feeling of this particular environment, which is perpetuated by Madden’s inclination to use his roving camera, always on the go, much like the characters.
Though Miss Sloane is patently thriving in its cinematic tropes, overstated and over-embellished for dramatic effect, the film is grounded persistently by its narrative and core themes, as we linger studiously over an incredibly relevant debate and discussion. This allows for this film to work on many levels, proving to be so much more than just your archetypal courtroom drama, instead presenting a pertinent tale that remains vitally accessible.
Miss Sloane is released on May 12th