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.