In a true story set during the peak of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) finds himself stuck between two different superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire chess champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). Also starring Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg, Pawn Sacrifice dramatizes Fischer’s struggles with genius and mental illness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination and attention of the world.
I know what most of you are thinking, a movie about chess? Believe me it’s not as bad as it sounds. There’s actually a lot to be had here. I will say that the chess-related scenes, although minimal, were well done but there is much more to the story than that. What we get to see the most is the “rise and fall” of Bobby, from his humble beginnings as a kid, to a young adult chess champion with some good old fashioned Russian communist undertones and cold war paranoia sprinkled throughout. I found these parts a little bland and boring based on the performances of the child actors playing young and teen Bobby (Aiden Lovekamp and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) and the slightly cheesy story. I found both of them both quite obnoxious and a little annoying and some of their dialogue was cheesy as well. Luckily we don’t spend too much time with them as most of the film takes place during Bobby’s adult years. These are the better moments of the film as I found that Tobey Maguire did the best at depicting Bobby Fischer’s eccentric personality and paranoia of the Russians and Boris Spassky who were his most formidable opponents. I thought he was pretty good throughout but again, he did have his cheesy moments. I will admit that it was hard for me not to think about Peter Parker while watching. I wish they could have explored that angle a little more as you never really got an idea (or at least I didn’t) of how evil and menacing they were and despite how good Liev Schreiber was as Spassky, I wish we could have seen more of him. Also the cold war undertones spent most of the time in the background, just giving us an idea of the time in which the film was taking place. I wish the film could have spent more time embracing the whole cold war thing. Like I said, the chess scenes were good but I wish there could have been more as a lot of Bobby’s matches happened off screen. I also liked Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg in their supporting roles as Father Bill Lombardy and Paul Marshall. They had great chemistry together will Lombardy as Bobby’s coach and Marshall as Bobby’s lawyer who appeared to be connected with the government somehow but that connection was never explored. I was not a fan of the ending either and explaining why would spoil the story if you are unaware of Bobby Fischer’s story. You don’t really have to know much about him before seeing this which was nice. Overall, I thought this was a good movie for what it had but I thought it could have been a touch better.