★★★★☆

THIS slick, well-acted and highly entertaining legal thriller couldn’t feel any more pertinent in these times of political uncertainty, with a full-on tackling of that most fiery of hot-button issues in America: gun control. We’re thrown head first into the high-stakes world of Washington DC power brokers, with Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) the most sought-after and utterly ruthless lobbyist the US capital has to offer.

After becoming disillusioned with her current company and the prospect of the biggest challenge of her career hanging within her grasp across the aisle, she decides to join the cause of a liberal-leaning organisation pushing for a revolutionary gun control bill that would force stricter background checks.

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It all centres on a tense courtroom hearing, flashing back in terms of weeks to the events that led up to it, giving the drama a neat structure that it populates with scenery-chewing political and moral speeches delivered with gusto by an impressive cast that includes Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

But it’s Chastain who is the real reason to watch, as she single-handedly lifts the film up from a solid politically-charged thriller to something that keeps you glued to the screen throughout. The titular woman is a fascinating figure brilliantly played who is constantly underestimated by her colleagues-turned-foes. She cuts herself a ruthless path along the moral high ground amid an unpredictable and tempestuous game of political chess and against tricky opponents looking to predict and undermine her every move.

She’s the smartest person in the room and she knows it, spouting unashamedly theatrical, instantly quotable lines that could only exist in scripted entertainment, such as, “If the company is modelled in his image, he must be a simpering wuss with a PhD in style over substance” and “anyone that desperate to get their hands on a gun shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near one”. These are just a couple that stick in the mind.

While this leaf taken firmly from the Aaron Sorkin school of dialogue might not make the drama ring 100 per cent true, it fits the material to a tee. As a piece of boldly intentioned, unapologetically message-driven cinema, anchored and elevated by a terrific lead performance, it works a slick magic that’s hard to resist.