Molly’s Game (2017)

★★★★

Molly’s Game or The Movie Where Jessica Chastain Wears a Lot of Dresses is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, and is where he has full control for the first time over everything. If you’ve seen anything written by Sorkin you know what you are in for. Incredibly fast and sharp dialogue in situations that otherwise would most likely be boring if done by anyone else. The best way to describe Molly’s Game is, the most Sorkin-esque film yet.

If not for Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba’s performance as well as Sorkin’s dialogue, direction, as well as speedy editing; this would have probably made this nearly two-and-a-half hour movie a slog to get through. The opening of Molly’s Game is both action-packed and and also metaphorical for the course her life took. The expectation that the movie would start out with poker, which is how most would expect that to be the subject that is tackled first. Instead, this provides background to Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) as a character showing her strict upbringing by her father (Kevin Costner), and her determination. Leading into what the future held for her after that one skiing accident. The surprising thing however, is that Aaron Sorkin did not even want to direct the film at first. As he said in his Q and A following the screening. He had picked directors with the producers and both the directors selected had turned down the movie multiple times, both insisting that he should be the one to direct. This is surprising to discover, because I could not really picture anyone more perfect for this movie and am glad that he turned out to be the one for the job.

Molly’s Game tries to set the record straight. Portraying Molly Bloom as an intellectual, brilliant, and independent woman. Who just happened to be a victim of circumstance. Painting the reports in the tabloids to be false. Using the movie as factual evidence supporting her. Never boring us, but keeping us interested until the very end.

Wind River (2017)

★★★★

Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River is a snow-covered crime thriller that is not just another rinse and repeat rendition of the genre. Suspenseful gunfights, diverse themes, and beautiful cinematography in addition to exceptional shot composition make this movie one of the best I have seen all year.

There are a couple prominent motifs in Wind River. The first, would be vigilante justice. Which has a lot to do with Cory Lambert’s (Jeremy Renner) past, with the loss of his daughter. The other motif that is equally as paramount, is missing Native American women; and the the absence of statistics for their disappearances. The film ends with this anecdote actually, creating emptiness inside me about how many Native American girls have gone missing without the knowledge of any type of law enforcement. Since the film takes place on a Native American reservation in Montana, the dire situation the reservation is in is also shown. Drugs are clearly a problem on the reservation, as the girl who was killed, Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Chow) has a brother who is considered to be past saving by his father from substance abuse. The two main motifs in this movie are also joined by minor themes such as love, prejudice and cultural differences. Which also serve important purposes in the story.

The almost-fleecy mountains of Montana are a great setting to shoot a movie in. The wide shots in this movie especially display how gorgeous the environment is. The cinematography of the shootouts, possibly even better than the ones choreographed in Free Fire (2017). The suspense I felt in these two short, yet pivotal scenes was immense. The second shootout especially, does a good job transitioning to provide a backstory about certain characters motives. All this is done without needing to tell the audience, just through the editing.

The only glaring problem with Wind River was some of the acting from the supporting cast. Specifically, Lambert’s ex-wife Wilma (Julia Jones). Jones’ performance felt very dry, almost dead-pan and lifeless. Every time she was on screen her performance seemed to drag the film down. Fortunately, her screen time is very brief over the course of the picture.

Wind River is a tight, action thriller that again demonstrates Taylor Sheridan’s screenwriting talents as well as directing this time around. So, make sure to check this one out as I predict it being atop many “best-of” lists at the end of the year.