Genre: Biography | Drama
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Liev Schriber, Peter Sarsgaard
Written by: Steven Knight (story & screenplay), Stephen J. Rivele (story), Christopher Wilkinson (story)
Synopsis: Set during the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer finds himself caught between two superpowers and his own struggles as he challenges the Soviet Empire. (Imdb)
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For those that weren’t around the Cold War, we might not have been privy to the rivalry between the U.S. and Russia. Pawn Sacrifice tries to make an emphatic statement that American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer was our last hope. The film is based on a true story, but it takes itself way too seriously. Tobey Maguire plays Bobby Fischer, the greatest chess player in history. From an early age Fischer’s obsession with chess and being the best at it is depicted in the film. Bobby is a child prodigy that rises through the ranks by defeating all the top American chess players of his time. By the time he’s a teenager he’s traveling the world and further disposes his competitors. His goal is the defeat the Russians who were the best at it, in particular Boris Spassky who was the top dog in the game. From an early age it’s depicted that Bobby wasn’t the easiest kid to deal with. He is very authoritative, shows little respect for his mother (actually ends up having her move away to another state due to the alleged annoyance and distraction she presented in his studies).
Liev Schriber is Mr. VIP as Boris Spassky
Director Edward Zwick attempts to turn this documentary story into a feature film, at times he succeeds when the dramatic chess matches against Spassky are taking place, or when Bobby’s crew has to deal with his absurd ways. On the other hand, there are time where this film feels stale. The countless scenes of Bobby moping around, reading books, complaining about not having his way become too redundant. Fischer is a hard person and movie character to like. He’s whiny, petulant, and downright annoying. I found myself rooting against him. Credit to Tobey Maguire for his seemingly spot-on portrayal of Fischer.
As good as Maguire is, Peter Sarsgaard steals the show as Father Bill Lombardy, a former top chess player turned priest that accompanies Fischer on his chess journey. Sarsgaard owns most roles he’s in. He’s one of the top supporting actors working today. Lombardy is what you wouldn’t expect of a priest, he swears. drinks, and doesn’t do much praying. Liev Schreiber is ice cold good as Spassky. The number one chess player in the world at the time Fischer was chasing him, it’s fascinating to see the portrayal of Spassky in the film. He was treated by the Russians as a legitimate celebrity, like a politician actually. Limo rides everywhere, VIP treatment, and bodyguards at all times, he was the Russian pride and joy during the times of the Cold War.
Sarsgaard is great as usual
The movie loses track after the countless games played between Fischer and Spassky start blending together. Seems like these guys played a thousand games against each other. It does get suspenseful when they are in their final tournament though. The antics Fischer pulls, the reaction of Spassky. Those are the scenes that give you an inside look at how obsessed these two were about beating each other. What’s worth mentioning is that Fischer was genuinely losing his mind during his ascension to being the greatest. The magnitude of the event is overstated however. The mention of the Fischer and Spassky match being the tipping point for both nations in the Cold War, how the boys in Vietnam and the country are counting on Fischer to win the match so that the Cold War battle could be won by the U.S. Now, I wasn’t around those days, but it’s hard to believe that this match would change any political landscape between the two nations. It’s a CHESS match!! Come on.
Maguire is at his best
There are good and bad things about Pawn Sacrifice. Fischer is so unlikeable that it’s frustrating to watch him and have interest in him winning, but the acting in the film is really good. Does the film make it possible for a movie about chess to be interesting–yes. Does the film leave you with an impression of how significant this match was–not really. Pawn Sacrifice should leave you entertained enough to have sat through 114 minutes without regrets.
Runtime: 114 minutes
Release Date: September 16, 2015
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