For Reel

Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
October 5, 2015, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Edward Zwick
3 Stars
Pawn SacrificeIn films like Ride with the Devil and as Peter Parker, Tobey Maguire has specialized in playing apprehensive, sheepish characters who rarely get the opportunity to really voice their grievances. It is exciting, then, to see him take on the challenge of playing the thoroughly contemptible Bobby Fischer, whose paranoid, anti-Semitic rants are hard to ignore despite his amazing prowess at chess. Pawn Sacrifice finds an inherent link between chess mastery and madness–characters wax about the number of possibilities a single game of chess involves, and late in the film Fischer suggests the anxiety of making the “right move”, despite having a conceptual awareness of the logic behind the game. One gets the sense that he is calibrating his life in the same strategic way, trying to make sense of the whole of his surroundings and absolutely suffocated by the possibilities. Fischer’s specific relationship to Cold War paranoia exists only at a surface level–the film doesn’t make many new observations about the conflict, rather uses the setting as a means of demonstrating the stakes (if Fischer wins the chess game, capitalism has arrived at a small victory over communism). Director Edward Zwick makes good use of archival materials (as well as imitation archival materials), but the inescapable soundtrack and the insistence on slow-mo as chess pieces are pushed across the board gets a little laborious by the end.

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