Pawn Sacrifice

by | Oct 9, 2015 | 0 comments

The Solid Tobey Maguire Holds Aloft a Film About Chess

How do you make a game of chess seem exciting? It’s an incredible challenge that could go wrong in many ways; it could turn out cheesy or downright boring. However, with Pawn Sacrifice (despite the tacky title) the film surpassed the difficult challenge all the while telling a biopic.  

Pawn Sacrifice tells the story of the legendary Bob Fischer (Tobey Maguire) who came from a family of Russian immigrants, but was brought up in Brooklyn, New York. The film thankfully speeds up and almost rushes through Bob’s childhood years (which in biopics tend to be the most boring and lengthened), and we quickly land upon the subject that the movie wants to touch upon: the rivalry between Bob Fischer and the Soviet chess champion, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) during the 70s. 

The film takes on a surprisingly honest perspective. Instead of praising Fischer for his incredible genius, we are shown his bad and arrogant side. Fischer had a Steve Jobs-like arrogance and intuition, where you think he’s being exaggerated, but in the end it shows that it was his only way of finding success.  

In terms of the acting Fischer was an incredibly rich character and Maguire takes full advantage to the point that the complicated role turns out to be a bit too easy for him. Maguire might be one of the most ignored characters in Hollywood today. He broke into fame through Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy as the titular character, but after that he was completely forgotten. He gave fantastic performances in small films like The Cider House Rules, Ride with the Devil, and Brothers. I had hoped that Baz Lurman’s The Great Gatsby would bring him back into the spotlight but once again he has been relegated to small films that barely get to see the light of day. Liev Schreiber gives a more disappointing turn; his Spassky felt too much like the silent and thick Ray Donovan that Schreiber plays in the TV series Ray Donovan. Only towards the end of the film do you see that Spassky’s character explored more, but it ends up being too little for Schreiber to be able to enjoy; and I understand that this film is primarily Fischer, but it seemed a shame to leave such a rich character so untouched. Finally we have the supporting additions of Michael Stuhlbarg who plays Fischer’s manager, and a great turn from Peter Sargaard, who plays Fischer’s “second” (more or less functioning as a coach). Sarsgaard gave his character great flourish and honesty, so that he was always the highlight of his scenes.

In the end director Edward Zwick was able to keep a good pace and manage his actors very well. I only had the slight drawback of the dialogue. The lines seemed to be forced and tawdry, thankfully the actors handled them so well that the audience might not even notice. But nonetheless some of it ends up seeping and ruins what would otherwise have been a very solid film. 







Historical Accuracy

What is your favorite board game? Let me know in the comments section.

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