Like Taylor Sheridan, Aaron Sorkin’s sumptuous screenplays have been brought to life by some of the great directors of modern cinema. A Few Good Men: Rob Reiner. The Social Network: David Fincher. Steve Jobs: Danny Boyle. And, like Taylor Sheridan, 2017 is the long-anticipated year of Sorkin’s directorial debut, as he attempts to join the auteurs before him.
Adapted from her memoirs, Molly’s Game explores the story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) – the host of the most exclusive, high status poker games, who is apprehended by the FBI for supposed ties with the Russian mafia. With help from her lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), they try to clear her name from any wrongdoing whilst also protecting the confidentiality of the players.
Right from the start, Sorkin drives the audience at a million miles an hour with Molly, his motor-mouthpiece, narrating the minute-by-minute details of an Olympic ski-jump. This flows into her overwhelming enthusiasm for poker, learning all the rules and colloquialisms, as she climbs up the poker-hosting ladder. Previous directors of Sorkin’s work relax their filmic pace to let the words speak for themselves. But in Molly’s Game, words and movie are one and the same. The visuals and the editing are just as fast and delicious. Like The Social Network, the picture jumps back and forth between the conviction and the events leading up to it – using a structure that’s easier to digest than that of Steve Jobs.
This is a diversion from tales about presidents, 20-something billionaires and technological inventors, but the drama in Molly’s Game is fully alive, feeling more personal than Sorkin’s previous works. It even shines more as a character piece than a biopic. Chastain is, as ever, brilliant in her most shattering performance since Zero Dark Thirty – reaffirming her status as one of Hollywood’s great modern actors. She certainly deserves another Oscar nomination, as does costume designer Susan Lyall for her vast and beautiful selection of dresses.
This is the directorial talent that Sorkin fans hoped for. Although things slow down towards the end, there is an unwavering thrill from watching Molly Bloom and her story so vibrantly recited. Sorkin-esque dialogue achieves more than any explosion or car-chase sequence, the action is in the words. And, unlike Taylor Sheridan, Sorkin is not only joining the auteurs who directed his scripts – he’s competing with them.
Molly’s Game is released nationwide on 1st January 2018.
Watch the trailer for Molly’s Game here: