Johnathan Perera and John Madden
📷 : Licensed from Shutterstock
Suspenseful and intense thrillers
Movies and TV shows with a lot of dialog
Some people might argue that it takes a person devoid of emotion to do the work of politics, where the goal is not to be charismatic but simply to get your way. This suggests that those who do political work are automatons motivated solely by the desire to win, damn the cause and the potential human costs— even to oneself. This also suggests that the person has lost him or herself in the quest to win. That they have become oblivious to what drove them to the debate in the first place. When this happens, they lose sight of their peripheral vision and are blindsided by moves they failed to anticipate. Why? Because politics is a game of chess, not checkers.
Chess so aptly describes Miss Sloane, an immersive film about political maneuverings, manipulation of relationships, and ideologies that shift with the wind depending on which direction yields the advantage over an adversary. Headlined by Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game, Zero Dark Thirty) in the title role as Madeline Sloane, the contemporary Washington DC-based drama is a suspenseful political thriller, in which figuring out motivations and a winning strategy proves to be simultaneously mind-boggling and mind-blowing.
Because Shakespearean tragedies involve the death of a political hero, few people consider their parallels when tragedy befalls a heroine. To sell a modern story as one, the central character must be cloaked in stoicism and traditional, yet masculine exhibitions of leadership and determination. In Miss Sloan for example, Evelyn Sumner, a wealthy supporter of feminist causes who is played by Christine Baranski (Mamma Mia!, The Good Wife), does not hide her disdain for Sloane, telling her directly that “all she needed was a d***.” So, a woman who exhibits traditional male qualities and conducts her business in a traditional male domain is essentially viewed as problematic when she does not consistently support feminist causes. This, however, narrows what women can be and helps explain why some exhibit behaviors typically associated with men, particularly in the political arena.
Sloane is a quick-witted, high-energy, and bold thirty-something political operative who takes on the powerful gun lobby to regulate firearm purchases. This not only upsets the lobbyists but also raises the ire of certain congressional members who receive millions of dollars in campaign donations and in-kind favors under the tacit assurance that restrictions are never imposed on gun purchases. With the vote on a gun regulation bill looming, the lobby solicits the political consulting firm where Sloane is highly regarded and used to winning. Unable to contain her cynicism when approached by the head of the gun lobby, Bill Sanford, played by Chuck Shamata (The Day After Tomorrow, One Week), she laughs in his face and declares that they have no case. Incensed, her boss, George Dupont, played by Sam Waterston of Law and Order fame, gives her an ultimatum. She then takes viewers on a whirlwind around Washington’s power-elites where influence, will, and ingenuity meet center stage.
The 2016 release is reminiscent of the 1987 film, No Way Out, which stars Kevin Costner as Navy Lieutenant Commander Tom Farrell. He secretly witnesses the accidental killing of his lover, Susan Atwell by Senator David Brice, a powerful politician who was having an affair with her. Played by Gene Hackman (The French Connection, Runaway Jury), Senator Brice finds a Polaroid negative underneath Atwell’s bed appearing to be Atwell and her lover. He then embarks on a plan to divert attention away from himself by pointing the authorities in the direction of Farrell as the killer. Not only must he get the negative developed first, but he must ensure Atwell’s friends don’t reveal his relationship with her. Unfortunately for Farrell, Senator Brice exerts his influence to get the case assigned to him and to insist he uses the Pentagon’s software to render “the killer’s” image from the negative. Unbeknownst to Brice, the image is that of Farrell, who must work against himself to ensure the picture does not get revealed and that he simultaneously protects Atwell’s friends by staying one step ahead of Brice and his goons. Both are done at great cost to all involved.
Like No Way Out, Miss Sloane uses politics to tell a story about human costs and sacrifice. Sure, the cost of expending energy to win in Washington is measured in terms of livelihood, degree of influence, and wealth. So determined are the players to get their way that they leave immeasurable human wreckage in their wake. Instead, said wreckage manifests itself in intangibles like unmet needs, unchecked emotions, and unrequited love.
Miss Sloane left me wondering how much of ourselves we should sacrifice, and if winning is worth what we are risking. The price of not pausing to consider these has long-term consequences for what many believe are the most important things in life. Understanding this, is winning truly everything?