Molly’s Game was one of my most anticipated movies coming into 2018. It marked the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin and this was enough for me to pony up the cash for the ticket. Sorkin is one of the all-time greatest screenwriters Hollywood has ever seen and any movie he is attached to is bound to be good. So, I had a great curiosity to see if his directorial talents are on the same level as his screenwriting. Also, the cast of the movie was more than promising. Jessica Chastain in the titular role of Molly, with Idris Elba and Kevin Costner embodying the supportive cast.
In a nutshell, the story is about Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier, who, after giving up the sport due to an accident, ends up running one of the most exclusive high-stakes poker games in the US, but eventually is taken down by the FBI because of ties to the Russian mob. Also, fun fact, Molly Bloom is a real-life person and the movie depicts true events. Some creative liberties have been taken, but nothing too substantial.
The movie starts off with a quick insight of just how Molly’s minds works, all the while showing us the accident that made her give up skiing and what turned out to be the biggest turning point of her life. The scene is followed up with Molly’s arrest by the FBI for being connected to the Russian mob. This quick one-two punch between the past and the present remains consistent thorough the movie, as we witness the progression of both Molly’s rise in the world of poker in the same time as we see her struggle to defend herself years later against the justice system. The part of the story that enfolds in the past is narrated by Molly in the first person, as one would read a book out loud, which is not by chance since there is a book written by her about the events, a book that play heavily in the events of the second story part, which unfolds in “present” time, with no narration, and everything is presented from a 3rdperson viewpoint. The pacing, in true Sorkin fashion, is fast and the movie never stays too long in part or the other of the timeline. Occasionally, we get to see glimpses into Molly’s childhood in the form of flashback. These are few and far between so that they do not become annoying and are offer relevant information regarding Molly’s background and motivations. All in all, Sorkin did a great job on this movie.
But the cherry on the cake in this case is Jessica Chastain. She makes this role very much her own and she enjoys every second of it. If there was a snub at the 2018 Oscars, it had to be Chastain not getting nominated for best actress in a leading role. In any other year, her performance in this film would have guaranteed her not only the nomination, but also the frontrunner position. This year unfortunately, the category was too stacked. At any rate, it is a joy to watch her bringing Sorkin’s words to life. Elba is also making the most with his part, bringing a calm, collected yet suave performance. The scenes with dialogue between Elba and Chastain are like watching a high intensity ping-pong match. They are that gripping. Kevin Costner has little screen time, but there is a scene in the 3rdact which he just owns and makes his presence in this movie more than memorable.
Without any doubt, this is one of the best movies I have saw in the past 12 months. It is also a rare kind of movie, as it is not made for blockbuster, it is not made for awards. It is a smart film made by smart people for smart people. And if you enjoy reading a good dialogue in books, you will love this movie.