Pawn Sacrifice (♦♦♦♦½)

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet chess team's supremacy was undeniable, that was until American Grandmaster prodigy Bobby Fischer made it his mission to defeat, along with chess Grandmasters the world over, chess world champion Boris Spassky and the entire Soviet team. While Fischer was waging war on the chessboard, he was struggling with his increasingly deteriorating mental state.

I have a thing for Bobby Fischer. I've never learned entirely to play chess, but during my teenage years I made a scrapbook containing the chess matches ever played by Fischer and Spassky, that was much coveted by those in my social circle who played.

Anyways, Pawn Sacrifice is after my own heart. It is well written, well acted and well directed, and I think the film perfectly encapsulated the era--the music, the politics, the high stakes.

Tobey Maguire baffles me as an actor. He managed to achieve commercial stardom with the Spiderman franchise, yet he is still an under-the-radar actor, which I think is a pity because he always delivers understated performances that are award-worthy. Take Pawn Sacrifice, for example, in which he interprets the role of Bobby Fischer. He nails the antics, the paranoia, the cockiness... He does it so well that you say over and over: "there he goes again", and laugh while you shake your head knowing that for him it was a serious matter. While Maguire threatens to steal the spotlight, Liev Schreiber ably keeps up as Boris Spassky and gives Maguire a run for his money. Peter Sarsgaard has in Pawn Sacrifice his most sympathetic role to date as priest and anchor Bill Lombardy.

If I had had the opportunity to nominate movies for the Oscars, I would have done away with The Martian and Matt Damon, and would have nominated Pawn Sacrifice, Maguire and Schreiber, the two leading actors for their outstanding performances.

Comments

  1. Did this movie get much notice when it came out? I admit I wasn't even aware of it. Like you, I, too, "had a thing" for Bobby Fischer - such a tragic story. I remember those Fischer/Spassky matches very well. And I agree with you about Tobey Maguire, a talented actor. My favorite movie of his is Seabiscuit.

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    1. I don't know if this movie got much notice when it came out, but I knew about it and was waiting for it to be released for rental.
      Tobey Maguire is indeed a talented actor, and Seabiscuit is one of my favorites, but in this one he is in another league altogether. I highly recommend it, Dorothy, particularly if you too were fascinated by Bobby Fischer.

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  2. You are becoming my go to girl for movie recs. I also had not heard much about this one. On the list it goes. Last night I saw The Age of Adaline, another unjustly overlooked 2015 film. Oh my goodness, it was great!

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    1. Thanks, Judy, I hope I can steer you in the right direction.
      I saw The Age of Adaline and liked the story and the beautiful couple of Blake Lively and the gorgeous Daario of GOT fame, but I thought something was missing and I couldn't pinpoint what. In any case, I'm glad you loved it.

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  3. It's a fascinating story as it relates to the Cold War and I'll definitely look for it on netflix. I didn't follow Fischer when I was young but I remember him being on Sports Illustrated and Time Mag for sure.

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    1. He was quite a character for sure, but his mental illness got the best of him.

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