Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has spent the last three decades swaying many with his knack for writing across stage, television and cinema, with some of his most noteworthy ventures in the latter including the likes of A Few Good Men, The Social Network and Steve Jobs.
But now, after so long, he has finally taken the plunge and put himself into the director’s chair for his latest undertaking – Molly’s Game, exploring the real-life story of Molly Bloom, a failed Olympic skier who suffers a string of bad luck before seizing an opportunity to run an underground poker domain that invites the attention of rich and successful people, but down the line she loses all her money and is charged by the FBI for mob indictment; from which, a trial ensues.
Jessica Chastain is just sensational as the titular character, being direct, quick witted and donning a heck of a multi-layered personality. She portrays all the right emotions when the situation demands it, she bounces off other people well, and I was drawn into the character from start to finish.
Idris Elba also impresses as attorney Charlie Jaffey, coming back strong after appearing in weaker projects as of late like Dark Tower and The Mountain Between Us. Here, he reminded me what a talented actor he is when given the right script, with his individual highlight being an impassioned monologue later on in the film.
I enjoyed the utterly engaging exchanges between Molly and Charlie – thanks to Chastain and Elba being a tight pairing – and there is never a dull moment between these two in their multiple scenes together.
The supporting cast are memorable too, with just some of the stand outs being Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, Jeremy Strong and especially Kevin Costner. Even Michael Cera does pretty well, and it’s refreshing to see him in a movie that’s out his comfort zone and not just another typical comedy that we expect to see him in.
On top of his writing, Aaron Sorkin excels in his directional debut. He clearly handled the actors so well, and at his helm, he keeps the audience hooked with a consistent pace that flows across the 2 hour, 20 minute running time, and he also has some capable cohorts at his side, such as cinematographer Charlotte Christensen behind the lens and the trio of Alan Baumgarten, Elliot Graham and Josh Schaeffer in the editing department.
Numerous themes are tackled, with the most prominent being the treatment of women in male dominated industries, particularly ones chock full of those with plenty of money in their pocket and power available at hand, and it pains me to say just how relevant this is, given the events of the Weinstein effect that have unfolded in the last few months.
The movie also dives into the intricacies of professional poker games, giving the audience a breakneck tutorial into how they work for the sake of a better understanding, although because it is so fast, it might just fly in one ear and out the other with some viewers.
There’s also a couple of nitpicks. While I mentioned the top notch pacing throughout, the first 10-15 minutes are a little rushed, and it feels like they charged through the backstory exposition so they could get to the real beef of the plot as soon as possible. There’s also one or two scenes where the tone is a little off, and it takes you out the seriousness of the story.
But despite those minor flaws, the rest of the picture as a whole is just tremendous. The acting across the board being excellent, with Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba delivering some of their outstanding performances to date. The film is very well made and the plot is gripping, and Aaron Sorkin has proven himself to be just as proficient a director as he is a screenwriter.
Only a day into 2018, Molly’s Game is already a worthy candidate to make the best of the year list come it’s end.