This was, from the start, a very Aaron Sorkin-ish kind of film with bullet-speed dialogue, rapid-fire exchanges, sports metaphors and humour. The film was engaging, intelligent, funny and even a bit sentimental, and despite its 140 minutes runtime, it never felt long or draggy. There is a benefit of having Sorkin direct his own script, as he would be the best person to understand how he would want to tell the story. Although the choice to have so much voiceovers was a gamble, but luckily he has a way with words and Jessica Chastain's narration was great. She was a great casting choice, with her pro-feminist persona in full force as she ably rattled off Sorkin's words with aplomb, and giving a strong, layered performance as Molly Bloom. Her chemistry with Idris Elba as a Sorkin-dialogue sparring partner was palpable and it would have been great if they had more moments together.
Sorkin's directorial debut was competent, however he does not seem to have an eye for continuity and it was clear that certain scenes were edited together from multiple cuts. In addition, who made the decisions on how to dress Chastain's Molly? Boy, was her cleavage front and centre almost always.
Where Sorkin excelled in was his screenplay. The script was smart, witty and funny. He never dumbed it down and it demands your full attention. Which was also why the film felt so engaging. You really got to pay attention to it.
Chastain was great here. It seemed like a continuation of her role in Miss Sloane, and kudos to her for choosing to play such strong women. But yet for all her strength, Chastain imbibed in her a realistic amount of vulnerability that felt honest and not manipulative. Sorkin had created for her a layered, complex character that she carried off with style. However, the role was not showy - except for her cleavage - and that may hamper her chance (again) this year at the Oscars. Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand and Saoirse Ronan are the only sure bets for a nom, and Chastain will have to vie with Judi Dench, Margot Robbie, Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams.
Elba, otstensibly the male lead, was really just playing a supporting character here, but he had great chemistry with Chastain, and their scenes together were fun to watch and exciting to see.
Kevin Costner had a small - but pivotal - role which was surprising light on the usual Sorkinisms.
Cinematographer was Charlotte Bruus Christensen who also beautifully lensed the underrated Far From the Madding Crowd.
This film may not appeal to everybody as it demands attention. There were no explosions or bombastic moments to distract but just great acting and smart writing.