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Review: Pawn Sacrifice

Liev Schreiber and Tobey Maguire star in Bleecker Street's PAWN SACRIFICE

For those of us who know, Bobby Fischer has always been a person who could spark interest. Since he first came to prominence as a master of chess, he’s been able to catch headlines and create controversy. Now even after his passing, it’s proven that people will still find him to be an interesting figure. That would explain why we have films such as Pawn Sacrifice.

Starring Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer, Pawn Sacrifice showcases some of the most crucial times in the life of one of the world’s most dominant chess players in history. It’s the height of the Cold War, and this American prodigy finds himself in the middle of a battle that will be won not on the battlefield or war rooms, but in front of a chess board playing against the best Russia has to offer.

It’s difficult to say too many negative things about Pawn Sacrifice based on how it’s been made. From the beginning to the end, this is a carefully constructed film that appears to be put together quite well from a technical standpoint. There aren’t too many issues or flaws to talk about in that sense, and the acting is top-notch from the cast that’s been assembled.

With his performance, Maguire manages to truly capture the essence of the enigmatic Bobby Fischer. Because of this, audiences who don’t know about this person are able to get an understanding of who he was as a neurotic personality whose life was built around his obsession with chess. If you know anything about him as a person, you’ll recognize much of what we’ve known for a long while.

In spite of Pawn Sacrifice having a great performance from its lead while not having too many issues as a whole, none of this means that the film is going to be loved by everyone. In actuality, some who know the story of the American born chess prodigy may have a tough time being entertained or intrigued by this since they know the story already. Knowing the story may also mean that you know about the little quirks that he had to his personality. If you know of this stuff, there’s a chance that you could get a little bored with it since the movie as a whole is not packed with excitement.

One of the ways that they could have changed things to some degree would have been to add more about Spassky, Fisher’s longtime Russian rival who’s played by Liev Schreiber. He’s a guy that we don’t generally get to hear about whenever Bobby Fischer pops up. We know of him, but we don’t actually get to know him as a person. Pawn Sacrifice eventually gives us pieces of him but it only makes you more interested in who he was rather than satisfying our curiosity. Adding more of him would have also made you question just how much of Bobby Fischer’s issues were unique to him as a chess master.

Overall, Pawn Sacrifice is a solid feature that doesn’t have the quality necessary to make it stand out and grab the attention of the public. As I said, there’s nothing wrong with it, but there’s nothing that truly makes it anything better than good. For those of you who does decide to give it a chance, it’s hard to see it disappointing too many of you unless you’re anticipating more than that. By revving up the energy and giving us more to Schreiber’s Spassky, I think they could have made it better, but it’s all decent either way.

Rating: PG-13

Director: Edward Zwick

Toby Maguire
Liev Schreiber
Peter Sarsgaard
Michael Stuhlbarg

Film Length: 116 minutes

Release Dates:
September 18, 2015 (Limited)
September 25, 2015 (Wide)

Distributor: Bleecker Street

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