Those of us who still pine for Aaron Sorkin’s walky-talky West Wing in which every quip needed citations will find plenty to love about Miss Sloane.
Although writer Jonathan Perera loots President Bartlett for style, the theme is pure Trump – Drain the swamp! Drain the swamp!
For we enter the amoral world of Washington lobbyists where shady deals based on cynical reckoning coerce flimsy politicians to vote according to the latest bribe or blackmail.
Queen of the Twisted Arm is the icy figure of Elizabeth Sloane who, up till now, would do whatever it took to win. For her latest challenge, she will go even further.
“I never know where the line is,” she says without regret. She cuts a frosty, enigmatic figure, feared and respected and with an MO that makes ruthless efficiency look like sloppy Sunday afternoon slacking.
For this role, veteran British director John Madden has the formidable talents of Jessica Chastain, her face as pale and impassive as a glacier, her lips the blossoming crimson of a fresh gunshot wound.
He wisely keeps the camera on her most of the time, usually against a backdrop of marble floors, burnished wood and clutter-free offices.
It is a dazzling tour de force, this uncompromising high heel, high stakes insomniac who plays Washington like a chess game, always 10 steps ahead.
Her services are sought by every grubby vested interest but she’s a “conviction lobbyist” only picking causes that tally with her ethics.
So, much to the displeasure of Cole Kravitz And Waterman, the star employee laughs in the face of a rich gun rights activist and quits to join the opposition, seemingly because the odds are long and the pill-popper needs to find a bigger buzz by bringing home an improbable win.
For West Wing fans the set-up is familiar. The white board filled with senators’ names – for and against the latest gun restriction bill. Some 22 are still in play and Miss Sloane has 84 days before the vote to bring them onside.
Her new boss is liberal Rodolfo Schmidt (a reliably excellent Mark Strong). He and his team of do-gooders have high hopes of another honourable defeat against the bottomless pockets of Second Amendment fanatics.
But Sloane has other ideas. She ramps up the tricks, the charm, the soundbite duelling under TV lights and she proceeds by fair means or, more usually, foul.
Schmidt meanwhile becomes increasingly squeamish with this suave, capable cobra in his basket.
Back at Cole Kravitz And Waterman, they have the Sloane playbook courtesy of turncoat Jane Molloy (Sorkin alumni Alison Pill of The Newsroom) and are not beyond dirty tricks of their own. Gun lobby be damned, they want to bring down their high flier-turned-backstabber.
We know it’s going to end badly because the film is bookended in a Senate ethics inquiry, Sloane the target under the grim quizzing of Congressman Ron M Sperling (John Lithgow). And despite Sloane’s instruction to plead the fifth she cannot help herself. What results is a Line Of Duty style set piece head-to-head that is dizzying and shocking and delicious.
How she finds herself in front of the committee, how she goes from behind-the-scenes string-puller to front page scandal is the course of this riveting story in which all emerge from the swamp muddy and stinking.
Chastain’s Sloane is an impenetrable piece of work, a woman who “outsources her social interactions”, buys in her lovers and never, ever let’s slip there might be a heart beneath her crisp blouse.
By the final revelation of this twisting, scorching Washington hatchet job, we’re still not sure who she is. Were those glimpses of humanity we spied or just another tactic in the long game?
We fear the worst, purely on the percentages.