Pawn Sacrifice Movie Poster
Pawn Sacrifice Movie Poster

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars (Two and half stars)

Star Cast: Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schrieber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Lily Rabe, Robin Weigert

Director: Edward Zwick

What’s Good: Laced with brilliant performances, Pawn Sacrifice makes up for a decent watch. Tobey Maguire impresses us as the prickly chess player Bobby Fischer who once had America disgusted with his arrogance yet proud of his achievements.

What’s Bad: Edward Zwick’s film does not move beyond what is known. The film keeps revolving around Fischer’s unsettling tendencies but fails to give you further insights into his character which would have been necessary for a wholesome biopic.

Loo Break: Only if you want to!

Watch or Not?: Pawn Sacrifice could still suffice as a decent watch for you if you have known very little about Bobby Fischer. Those familiar with him would agree that they would loved to see Zwick digging deeper into his personality. It is a two hour biopic with Maguire’s stellar performance so if you are a fan of the star, this could be your weekend pick.

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The film revolves around the turbulent life of American Chess champion Bobby Fischer who is going through psychological paranoia and how his game affects him as well as the vice versa.

It takes off from the point where Bobby (Tobey Maguire) has disappeared in the middle of the 1972 World Chess Championship in Reykjavik with arch-rival, the Russian player Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber).

After this, the film takes a flashback into Bobby’s early life. How he became America’s youngest Chess sensation while coping with familial problems. Bobby’s mother, Regina is shown to be a politically active, suspected Communist under FBI surveillance. In one of the scenes, she tells young Bobby “there are bad people in the world who want to intimidate us.”

To undermine this chaos, Bobby learns Chess on his own, something extremely impossible for a 6 year-old unless gifted. By 15, Fischer becomes youngest grand master in chess history.

His only aim is to defeat the Russians and will he succeed in defeating Spasky and get over his delusions is left to see.

Liev Schreiber and Tobey Maguire in a still from movie 'Pawn Sacrifice'
Liev Schreiber and Tobey Maguire in a still from movie ‘Pawn Sacrifice’

Pawn Sacrifice Review: Script Analysis

Steven Knight takes the mantle of penning down this biopic and he doesn’t do exceptional work. If you have seen the HBO documentary, Bobby Fischer Against The World, you would realize where this film lacks. While Knight catches the prickly and histrionic nature of Fischer quite rightly, he misses to delve further into it. Fischer’s strong banter against the Soviets and Jews too finds place in the film. Although Knight misses out on throwing more light on things such as Fischer had the fillings in his teeth removed because he thought the Soviet Union was transmitting damaging rays to his brain. Also the fact that in spire of being a Jew, he admired Hitler.

The film focuses more on his mental illness but it fails to form the base for it. The writer misses out on the details of how early on, Fischer’s delusions had started and that it was his game which fed the paranoia as well as got rid of it.

Pawn Sacrifice Review: Star Performance

Tobey Maguire performs the role of Bobby Fischer with full might. He nails the act with his wandering gazes and the general cockiness of the character. Maguire has even worked on his accent to sound like the Brroklyn bred lad. Although, the paranoia of Fischer has been essayed with a lot of subtlety by Maguire which needed a little push to present its seriousity.

Peter Sarsgaard as the Chess-playing priest and Michael Stuhlbarg , a lawyer who becomes Bobby’s agent put up a strong performance in their supporting acts.

Liev Schreiber on the other hand as Boris Spasky, speaks only Russian and hence to the minimum. Other than trotting around in well-tailored suits and shades, Spasky’s character gets nothing in the film as the writer’s fail to build it enough.

Pawn Sacrifice Review: Music, Direction

Zwick’s biopic turns out to be a typical affair. The film is handled in a cliched manner and hence does not make you sit up and take notice. Pawn Sacrifice loses out on creating the impact of Fischer’s loss. It dwindles in the plot and the of course the unnecessary elements like the hooker that Fischer loses his virginity to is seen watching Chess re-runs. Why? well, she was so intimidated by a man who spoke oh nothing but chess moves after they slept together. Zwick’s attempt at deciphering the life of this chess legend is quite half-baked and hence it will not even appease a chess fan at that. One other problem is that Zwick keeps serving us with Fischer’s close ups every now and then to convey his unsettling behavior but it doesn’t work. Also the cliched direction of Chess games where we see the black and white pawns moving and players clicking their game clocks back and forth is quite repetitive the whole time.

I did particularly love the scenes, Fischer and Lombardy running through practice games in their heads as they rapidly recite board moves at each other. It was enough to portray the kind of mental agility both of them had and the kind required to master a game like that.

The cinematography is subtle and uses neutral tones that match with Fischer’s visions and delusions. There are old video clips of old-fashioned ’60s and ’70s grainy footages inserted into the film along with the real Fishcer’s bytes towards the end.

Pawn Sacrifice Review: The Last Word

If you have never heard the name Bobby Fischer and want to see the biopic on this Chess legend’s life, Pawn Sacrifice is a decent watch for you. But if you are well-read about this personality, the film will show you something you already know. I am going with 2.5/ 5 for this film.

Pawn Sacrifice Trailer

Pawn Sacrifice releases on 18th September, 2015.

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