Title – Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Director – Edward Zwick (Blood Diamond)
Cast – Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard
Plot – In the heart of the cold war tension between the USA and Russia, American chess star and mentally troubled Bobby Fischer (Maguire) sets out on a path that will lead him to the ultimate chess battle with proud Soviet Boris Spassky (Schreiber).
“We lost China. We’re losing Vietnam. We have to win this one”
Review by Eddie on 07/03/2016
Proving once and for all that chess is not a “sport’ to be watched for excitement, Last Samurai and Legend of the Fall director Edward Zwick try’s his very best to make something out of the no doubt far more appealing real life event of chess champion Bobby Fischer taking on Russian chess wiz Boris Spassky, but Pawn Sacrifice is a fairly forgettable battle against the odds.
Set during the heat of the cold war tensions between America and Russia, this battle of wills and minds enchanted countries and viewers the world over and has been documented in various formats including the fabulous and much more exciting documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World but Pawn Sacrifice fails to replicate the essence of what made this unique event such a big deal at the time and for Zwick in particular it marks a curiously down trodden entry into the filmmakers normally highly entertaining repertoire.
Once known exclusively for his epic sagas that often involved battlefields and emotionally manipulative plot progressions, Zwick seems a curious choice to have taken on Fischer’s story and can’t find the right tone to either make us care for Fischer or his plight and Pawn Sacrifice acts as one of the directors weakest products despite a committed Toby Maguire lead turn.
Taking somewhat of a backseat in recent years, Maguire gives it his all as Fischer and almost makes the strange and tortured soul someone we can root for even though his a highly unlikeable and intense individual. It’s a testament to Maguire’s skill as a performer that he almost pulls it off but in some sense also its hard to overlook the fact that both him and Zwick would’ve been feeling awards love was on the horizon with Pawn Sacrifice made in the mould of biopics the Academy normally laps up but Pawn Sacrifice was meet with a rather dull reception upon release and it’s not hard to see why.
For history buffs of the Cold War era and film fans that count themselves as chess fanatics, Pawn Sacrifice will be a new favourite but for the rest of us it’s merely a bearable film that offers some sporadically intriguing snippets of a bygone era and another showcase for the unique skill set of Toby Maguire.
2 bugged telephones out of 5