At the height of the Cold War, American chess legend Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) is locked in a gripping championship match against the Soviet grandmaster, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber).
Based on the remarkable true story, Pawn Sacrifice, from director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Steven Knight chronicles Bobby Fischer’s struggle to overcome his psychological demons as he tries to become the first US world champion in what has been called “The Match of the Century”.
Pawn Sacrifice review
By Audrey Shine (Wild About Movies resident critic)
This is my new number one movie of 2015 (so far.) In the days before the internet, computer games, and 24 hour news channels, the Cold War between the USSR and the USA came to be symbolized by this chess rivalry. Bobby Fischer was a hero. He was smarter than the computers of the day. My guess is that in spite of his rock star status, very few knew how troubled he really was.
Tobey Maguire embodies the genius and the demons that haunted Bobby Fischer so well that his nervousness and anxiety affects the audience with worry and apprehension, even though we all know how it will turn out. He is very convincing as a chess genius throughout the matches, showing intense concentration alternating with childish displays brought on by alternating ego and fear. Peter Sarsgaard, as Father William Lombard, gives probably his best perfomance ever – subtle, confident, caring, yet also scared and troubled by Bobby’s erratic, paranoid behavior and propensity for “risking it all.” Michael Stuhlborg (Paul Marshall) is an actor we should see more. This is a star turn for him, eclipsing his previous successful roles (my favorite is “Griffin” in the Men in Black 3.). I don’t know if this character is factual (unlike William Lombardy who has a real chess master and Catholic priest), but his travail as Bobby’s handler and manager intensifies the political relevance of the Fischer/Spaasky rivalry and does justice to the way Fischer was idolized in the Cold War drama. All three of these actors should be nominated for Oscars. Liev Schreiber plays Boris Spaasky with a very wooden demeanor, probably to emphasize the Russian stereotype of the times.
For movie fans who think that chess is “no big deal,” just note that a computer, IBM Deep Blue, did not defeat a world champion (Garry Kasparov in this case) until May, 1997 – 25 years after Fischers’ triumph over Spaasky.