The story of chess great Bobby Fisher is definitely a complex one as we watch Bobby as a young child (Young actors Aiden Lovekamp and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, who play Fischer as a boy and teenager, are respectively completely convincing) growing up in the Washington Square area of Brooklyn already showing chess greatness but also showing how his paranoia builds with his mother Regina Fisher (Robin Weigert) holding secret communist party get togethers in their small apartment.
Director Ed Zwick does well making this tense and gripping story which is for the most part set during the Cold War era between the U.S. & U.S.S.R. (aka Russia), Pawn Sacrifice is a very well acted and quite accurate portrayal of the oft demanding, arrogant, completely unstable and preening chess player Bobby Fisher, as it puts Tobey Maguire in the main role of Fisher when he was in his twenties.
The film opens on Fischer in a state of disarray, panting and pacing around a hotel room, ripping open telephones to check if there are microphones inside. He is going slightly mad, and Fischer will not leave his room. He is paranoid from what is happening outside as the Cold War paranoia that is getting to the American chess grandmaster will be his downfall from life as we know it.
As you watch his crazy decline of mental cognizance with Maguire truly inhabiting and embodying this character showing how he had a mind both incredible and dangerous as on the one hand he loved gloating to the public, on the other was a nuisance and nut in private.
With the aid of two companions, lawyer Paul Marshall (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Father William Lombardy (Peter Sarsgaard), Fischer plans a trip to Iceland to play against the Soviets.
Out of fear and apparent madness, Fischer does not show up for a world title match against his Russian foe, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), who is effortlessly cool in his portrayal here mostly just with looks as he doesn’t have much dialogue.
The fact that this film is quite historically accurate and with spectacular locations perfectly welded together, the scenes in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills being some of my favourite as they got the essence of the era down perfectly and beautifully, showing how these two guys were somewhat the rock stars of their respective countries in such a time of turmoil between the two countries.. along with the fact they make chess almost exciting makes the title perfectly fit with the reference to the sacrifice Bobby Fischer had to make, but because of his almost sheer genius, had the game going and ending how he wanted.
Although the physical resemblance with the real chess players isn’t spot on, that fact proves to be almost a moot point and unnoticable with these hands down enveloping performances and truly, once the movie gets a hold of you, just sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
POST Q & A WITH TOBEY MAGUIRE & PRODUCER GAIL KATZ:
Tobey noted what interested him most and attracted him to the role was seeing what Fisher’s childhood had been about.. Noting that by age 15 he was already at the top of his game, but mentally, what he was doing was telling people his hotel room wasn’t perfect or making crazy demands for quiet. It was mostly this that attracted him to the role.
He & Gail delved into many long and lengthy stories about how the film got to be made most notably that they first had director David Fincher attached when they first started putting the picture together 9 yrs. ago and then when it became clear he wouldn’t be able to do it when Tobey was ready to do it, he had a conversation with Ed Zwick who stepped in and did a fine job. He noted that it is somewhat a sports story but more a life story time capsule of what was going on in the world at the time.
Screening: Landmark Theatre Westside ~ Thursday, September 10, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media and Producers Guild of America
Nationwide release: Wednesday, September 16, 2015