December 22, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

Pawn Sacrifice (2015) - Movie Review
Directed by Edward Zwick
Country: USA

Movie Review: Edward Zwick (“Glory”, “The Last Samurai”, Blood Diamond”), directing from a script by Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”, “Locke”), builds up the real story of the American chess grandmaster, Bobby Fischer, played confidently by a re-established Tobey Maguire, lately relegated to minor roles in minor features (“Labor Day”) and TV mini-series, when not embodying Spider-Man. With a strong obsession for chess, the highly intelligent and yet emotionally unstable Brooklyn boy, Fischer, decided he wanted to be the world champion when he was still a kid. Upset for not knowing who his father was, and having a hard time with his Russian mother who insists on bringing her boyfriends home, Fischer is always demanding silence in order to fully concentrate on his objective. This two-player board game was dominated by the Soviets for 24 years, and now, during the cold war, the tension and rivalry were ablaze. Not a big deal for the defiant Fischer, who simply denounces, during the 1962 tournament in Bulgaria, that the Russians are cheating, quitting afterwards while the controversy spreads. Three years after, his straightforwardness still impresses a pro-bono lawyer, Paul Marshall (Michael Stuhlbarg), who together with a Catholic priest and former player, Bill Lombardy (Peter Sarsgaard), will become his best advisors and enthusiasts toward the great victory in the 1972 World Chess Championship played in Iceland. The adversary was the Russian star and champion, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), who agreed to play under Fischer’s requests – no noisy cameras in the background, no audience, and the introduction of a wooden board – after winning the first two games, the last of them because Fischer refused to play in such a distractive perimeter. In addition to the games and the atmosphere that surrounds them, we can follow the paranoia and delusional psychosis that keep on growing in Fischer, leaving his sister worried to the point of going to talk with the American federation. This biographical drama can be easily appreciated, thanks to the great performance of Mr. Maguire, who obviously usurps most of the screen time. The direction of Mr. Zwick, despite consistent with the accounts he wants to portray, doesn’t stand out. That’s the reason why the film alternates between serenely easygoing and slightly exciting. And I’m saying this with the perfect notion that excitement in chess is not exactly the same as in boxing. Stealthily, director and actor unite forces to make “Pawn Sacrifice” watchable, but not good enough to win a place among the special biopics. If I had to choose a pawn to sacrifice here, it would be Zwick’s intermittent approach whose excessive control blocks some of the vitality required to take a solid step further.

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