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Aaron Sorkin is best known for his fast-paced, intellectual dialogue, which when used correctly can make a scene truly soar with words alone. But now with Molly's Game, he's taking his first steps into the world of writing AND directing, which can be daunting to even the best talents out there. It's an ambitious gamble, but one that pays off quite well for all involved.

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) never meant to become the woman the world would eventually refer to as the "Poker Princess." If her plans were worth anything, she'd have been an Olympic skier and a successful law student in the prime of her life. But after an accident ends her skiing career, she ultimately makes her way into the high-stakes world of underground gambling. This decision would bring her the greatest success in her life, but also her biggest failings. Failings she'll now need the help of her defense attorney (Idris Elba) to find herself free of.

While this is Aaron Sorkin's debut as a writer-director hyphenate, Molly's Game finds him dealing the deck on both sides of the camera, he's chose a story that is well within his wheelhouse. Molly's an aloof character with a vocabulary that sets her apart from all competition, but ultimately belies her self image. In other words, she's the perfect Sorkin protagonist, which means that while his writer side has crafted a character he knows the ins and outs of, it allows him to focus on visually conveying that world he's all too familiar with. And as far as directorial debuts go, it comes off with only a minimum of hitches.

The minor hiccups in Molly's Game seem to come from the usual relationship with a writer such as Sorkin and his material. If the film's script were trimmed a little, or maybe just polished a little more in some spots, the entire film would have sailed much smoother. One particular scene between Jessica Chastain's Molly and her father, played by Kevin Costner, is one of those moments that could have benefitted from either treatment, as it manages to slide further into melodrama than needed. But even with some moments that take only the smallest gust of wind out of the film's sails, the story of Molly Bloom still manages to captivate the audience in its tense telling.

Naturally, a huge majority of that fact is due to Jessica Chastain, as she once more commands the screen with a presence of authority and snark that keeps the audience in Molly's corner. But Molly's Game wouldn't be a true Aaron Sorkin film if it didn't have our lead teamed up with someone else as her equal, particularly in the standard ping pong matches that his conversational scenes can turn into. This is where Idris Elba comes in, as he's so game for sparring with Chastain, their chemistry on screen puts on a clinic for why casting your leads is so important.

Molly's Game isn't perfect, but as it's Aaron Sorkin's first film as a director, it's a true testament to how much he's paid attention to the directors that have handled his work. Better still, the promise shown by Sorkin's eye for directing in this film With Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba turning in brilliant performances, their work ties Molly's Game together into a sharp legal drama / biopic hybrid. Last year, we got Miss Sloane, and this year we got Molly's Game. If this pattern means that we'll be getting a Chastain-led picture on a yearly basis, in order to help close things out in style, then I'll sign all of the petitions to make it happen.

8 / 10 stars
Rating: movie reviewed star rating out of five