Pawn Sacrifice

In a gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, Tobey Maguire stars American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer. “Pawn Sacrifice” chronicles Fischer’s terrifying struggles with genius and madness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination of the world preparing for the World Chess championship against Russian World Champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1972.

Tobey Maguire is amazing in his portrayal of Fischer as he falls into the depths of psychotic illusions.  Liev Schreiber is understated as Boris Spassky.  He says so much with just a gesture or a look.  The supporting cast also provide excellent performances  Peter Sarsgaard portrays Father Bill Lombardy, Michael Stuhlberg  as Fischer’s lawyer and Robin Weigert plays Bobby’s equally strange single mother Regina.

“Pawn Sacrifice” is a docudrama that tells the story of one very brilliant man whose whole world is built around chess.  Many think he was the greatest chess player that ever lived but I found the movie very depressing as you watch him sink into oblivion.  Hind sight is 20-20 but you wonder as you watch why someone didn’t step in to help this  poor man.  The only comic relief in this movie is the hideous ties all the men wore in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.  I forgot how truly horrible they were.

The story was created by Steven Knight, Stephen Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson.  The screenplay was by Steven Knight.

Edward Zwick (“Last Samurai,” “Blood Diamond,” “Defiance”) directed.

I thought the film dragged a little in the middle.  I got tired of all Fischer’s craziness and wanted to get on with the game even though I know how it ended.  Also, I found that there wasn’t anyone in the film that I really liked except the Russian, Boris Spassky who was someone we weren’t supposed to like.

I saw “Pawn Sacrifice” at the Tivoli in U City the day before the St. Louis red carpet premier with a bunch of St. Louis film critics. Most of them raved about the film.

This is a movie with great performances and much drama. If you are a chess buff or if you want to remember the sixties and want a walk down memory lane then “Pawn Sacrifice” is for you.  If you want to feel good when you leave the movie you might want to choose another film.

The Telegraph’s contributing movie critic Mary Cox lives in Wood River and is a member of the St. Louis Film Critics Association, who also occasionally writes about film-related topics, studied film at the University of California, Los Angeles, and worked in L.A. with various directors and industry professionals. She can be reached at