A whip smart script, pacey dialogue and a couple of stellar performances distinguish this pulsating drama. Molly’s Game is based on the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an Olympic-level skier who was forced to abandon her sport after a devastating injury.
With law school on hold, Molly takes a job that introduces her to a new endeavour requiring similar discipline and drive: running a high-stakes underground poker game. The deep pockets of Hollywood royalty, sports stars and business titans give her a decade of glitzy success. But Molly attracts the wrong kind of attention when she inadvertently engages members of the Russian mob at her table. Her streak comes to a grinding halt when she’s arrested in the middle of the night by the FBI. Facing criminal charges, her only ally is her reluctant defence lawyer (Idris Elba). He discovers that there’s much more to Molly Bloom than the salacious tabloid stories reveal.
Molly’s Game unfolds in layers, gradually piecing together a full picture of Bloom. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin populates his film with highly intelligent and highly successful people. He builds on that mix, and continually plays with it. Frequently, it’s a case of exposing chinks in the armour.
Sorkin found the story he wanted to tell in the details Bloom neglected to include in her book of the same title. That process of discovery reflected in Elba’s character.
If the huge volume of verbiage was daunting, you wouldn’t know it from the mesmerising performance of Chastain. She excels throughout. Elba has a significant although lesser role. A lengthy diatribe towards the end of the picture shows the calibre of his acting chops. Kevin Costner, who returned to form in Hidden Figures, is also mightily persuasive as Bloom’s intransigent father.
Molly’s Game is a movie that had me tingling with excitement and admiration; and clamouring to find out more as it was unfolding. As a first-time director, Sorkin has done a fine job breathing life into a compelling story. Despite its lengthy running time – 2 hours 20 minutes – Molly Bloom doesn’t drag, but rather holds you tightly in its grip.
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner
Release Date: 1 February 2018
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television