Anything written by Aaron Sorkin crackles with intensity and intelligence, he is a masterful writer, be it for TV or feature films. His long running TV series The West Wing was a magnificent creation, filled with sharp, fast paced dialogue, topical issues and gave an honest and intriguing look at life in the White House. Many awards were bestowed upon the show, and a fictional President I believe everyone longs to have in office.
His screenplays are usually outstanding beginning with A Few Good Men (1992) adapted from his own play, and containing one of the greatest court room scenes ever filmed. The American President (1995) was a fine picture said to be what brought him to create The West Wing. There was much to like in his political satire, Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) but I think audiences were confused by the complicated and intricate story lines.
In 2010 he wrote his masterpiece, The Social Network which won all the major Critics awards but incredibly lost the Oscar for Best Picture and Director to a lesser film, The King’s Speech (2010) and Tom Hooper. Sorkin however won the Oscar for Best Screenplay, richly deserved for writing one of cinema’s finest scripts.
In the years since he has written Moneyball (2011) and been nominated for another Oscar, and the excellent Steve Jobs (2016), for which he was again nominated for an Oscar.
This year in addition to writing Molly’s Game, he also has stepped behind the camera to direct the picture. Biting, tough, uncompromising the film is everything we would expect a Sorkin film to be. The film opens with a young woman being arrested at five am, armed police surround her apartment and make quite production of taking her out.
But then she is not anybody.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was a Olympic free style skier injured in the qualifying race which ended her career. Moving to LA because she wanted warm weather she becomes an assistant for a high-end poker game that includes A list movie stars, directors, high-priced lawyers and sports figures, all well-known. So good is she at her job she eventually takes the game over and begins making real money.
Betrayed by one she trusts, she is devastated, but rather than wallow in self-pity she heads to New York to set up shop there and once established has the biggest game in town. So big that the mob comes calling for a piece, and when she declines she is badly beaten and threatened with death. Shortly after that her game is raided and she retreats from that life to break free of her drug addiction.
Two years later she is arrested. Needing a lawyer, she hires Charlie (Idris Elba) a high price hotshot with a love for the play The Crucible, which plays brilliantly into the film.
Jessica Chastain steps forward as one of the frontrunner for the Academy Awards for Best Actress, with an electrifying turn as whip smart, ambitious Molly, who might be too smart for her own good. She miscalculated the viciousness of the mob and pays dearly for it, her eyes for the first time registering genuine terror. How could this smart woman not know she has always been in peril. She is riveting throughout, dominating the film with her edgy, tough character.
Elba is outstanding as her lawyer, not quite understanding why she will not take the deal until she quotes The Crucible to him, and then it sinks in. Kevin Costner has a lovely scene with Chastain portraying her father, who read in her book about her being attacked and reacts in helpless horror that his little girl was beaten and terrorized. Once again Costner demonstrates as a character actor. An outstanding film that is sharp, edgy and typical Sorkin.