Miss Sloane: everything you need to know about Jessica Chastain’s political drama

It’s Jessica Chastain vs US gun laws in this compelling political drama

From the outside, America’s attitude to guns looks like a spoilt infant bawling its head off whenever its hand-grenade rattle might get taken away. How best to tackle gun crime in schools, the Trump administration suggests? Easy! Put more guns in schools! Any attempt to restrict or further regulate gun ownership is considered an infringement of the God-given right to shoot each other at will, while the horrific death toll mounts – almost 300 people are shot in America every day, 50 of them children or teenagers.

Into this legal quagmire wades Jessica Chastain’s new political drama Miss Sloane, the story of the fierce moral battle over a relatively minor piece of gun law legislation, released in the US last November and hitting UK cinemas on Friday (May 12). Here’s everything we know about the film so far, peppered – be warned – with scattershot spoilers.

What’s the plot of Miss Sloane?

Chastain plays cutthroat Washington lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane, a woman as obsessed with winning votes on The Hill as Ed Sheeran is with the shape of you. Sloane is approached by a firm of gun manufacturers wanting her to swing a government vote against a bill to extend background checks on gun ownership. Hard-nosed but not hard-hearted, Sloane laughs them out of the building and dedicates her formidable lobbying powers to getting the bill passed instead – a plan that goes great until a key campaign member is held up at gunpoint, only to be saved by a passer-by with a legally-held firearm. Awk-ward!

Miss Sloane: director and cast

Having previously directed Chastain in 2010’s The Debt, Shakespeare In Love director John Madden hooks up with the celebrated Interstellar and The Martian actress after a double-film foray into the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel franchise. Chastian is admirably backed up by the Kingsmen’s drill sergeant Mark Strong as the head of the pro-bill firm that Sloane vows to help and Jupiter Ascending’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the campaign’s media front (with a buried gun-related secret).

Is Miss Sloane a true story?

Miss Sloane may smack of a tiny, NRA-battled piece of real-life legislature blown up into human-interest cinematic gold, but sadly the bill in question never happened and Sloane is no real-life political ball-breaker. Instead, first-time Hollywood screenwriter Jonathan Perera wrote the Sloane character as a profile of the dog-eat-dog world of the political lobbyists, with her more sympathetic traits based on his mother.

“I was raised singlehandedly by my mother, and the good traits of Miss Sloane are the facts that she’s incredibly smart, she works very quickly, she’s stubborn, she’s kind of like a bulldog — she gets her teeth into something she doesn’t let go, she takes no prisoners… that all comes from my mother,” he told Gold Derby. “The more deceitful and manipulative aspects [of Miss Sloane] came from my research of the lobbying world generally, and just my desire to make the movie as entertaining as I could.”

Are the Miss Sloane trailers good?

Like a cross between Milk, All The President’s Men and a one-on-one TED talk with a steely-eyed Chastain – “lobbying is about foresight,” she tells us, “about anticipating your opponents’ moves and devising countermeasures” – the trailers for Miss Sloane are intense snapshots of political one-upmanship, NRA threats, bugging, blackmail and double-crossing, centred around Chastain’s portrayal of Sloane as a top-end Washington mover-and-shaker, described by The Guardian as “equal parts crusader and manipulator”, putting her life and career on the line for a cause she believes in. Imagine a female Frank Underwood with a glimmer of a conscience.

What do the reviews of Miss Sloane say?

Chastain has been roundly praised for her “awards-worthy” performance, carrying what many reviewers thought was a clunky script: “in Mr. Perera’s long-winded screenplay,” said the New York Times, “ the characters tend to give little speeches instead of conversing normally. Some of the wordplay may be clever, but the attempts at witty repartee aren’t sharp enough to be remotely amusing.” However, the Guardian notes, “[Chastain’s] central performance makes Miss Sloane compulsively watchable even as Perera’s script grows increasingly ludicrous in its final stretch… Chastain single-handedly prevents it all from veering off the rails by dominating Miss Sloane with her forceful presence.”

Miss Sloane is in cinemas now