Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue-driven screenplays are the highlight of films like A Few Good Men, The Social Network and Steve Jobs (and of course TV’s The West Wing). His characters are loquacious, but not in the same way Tarantino’s are – they have something to say. And when Sorkin’s are talkin’, audiences are listening.

The wordsmith makes his directorial debut with Molly’s Game, adapting the memoir of ‘Poker Princess’ Molly Bloom (played by the always radiant Jessica Chastain). It’s an assured first stint behind the camera, and not surprisingly, relentlessly verbose.

A freestyle skier and Olympic hopeful, Molly Bloom’s promising sporting career was ended by a back injury, leading her to work as a PA for an obnoxious boss who organises illegal high stakes poker games for Hollywood celebs.

Poaching his contact list and striking out on her own, Molly becomes the consummate poker hostess, building a multi-million dollar underground empire without ever being dealt a hand. That is until the Russian mob join the game, putting her on the FBI’s radar.

Appealing to attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), whom she cannot pay, Molly discovers her only chance of avoiding a prison term is to name and shame her clients. But will she?

Chastain is always great and has had a good run playing strong women in films like Zero Dark Thirty and Miss Sloane. Here she holds all the cards – as the real power player in a game dominated by powerful men, and the ace in Sorkin’s deck.

Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue and fluid direction keep things flowing, but the film loses an extra star for its choppy structure, bloated running time, and some awful mansplaining from Kevin Costner, as Molly’s father.

In cinemas: February 1, 2018
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera
Directed by: Aaron Sorkin