Skip to main content

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See PITCH PERFECT 3 In Harlingen

Movie Review: 'Pawn Sacrifice'

The well-acted but dull Pawn Sacrifice does nothing to the elevate the game of chess.

Review by Matt Cummings

The game of chess is more than the strategy on the board, but the war going on inside the minds of the opponents. Analyzing moves and counter moves is just part of the neuroses which makes a chessmaster, sometimes resulting in odd quirks and even destructive psychological disorders. And while the Bobby Fischer biopic Pawn Sacrifice encapsulates some of that into a professional production, it relies too much on the personal struggles which its players endure, rather than balancing it with the brilliance of the game.

Arguably the greatest chess player in the world, Prospect Heights-born Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maquire) is also its loudest. Raised in a Communist household at the height of The Red Scare, a young Fischer turns to chess as a way to calm his distracted mind. But controversy and disappointment are never far behind, as years later he loses a vital match against a team of Russians without meeting their master Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber). Fast forward to 1972, and Fischer has dropped out of the public eye, until his opponent-turned-priest-turned-trainer (Peter Sarsgaard) and lawyer/manager (Michael Stuhlbarg) get him back into professional competition. Soon, the cantankerous Fischer is demanding a rematch against the cool Spassky, which takes both to a classic showdown in Reykjavik. The result will make history, but seal the fate of at least one of these champions.

There's something definitely missing from Pawn, as if Director Edward Zwick was close to checkmate but had to settle for a draw. Performances by Maquire and Schreiber are solid, and Zwick has a handle on the look of the time. But unlike Ron Howard's terrific Rush - which put a slick edge to 1970's Indy Car racing - Pawn lacks that sense of style, plodding through drama as if it's stuck in mud. More importantly, Pawn fails to celebrate the timeless sport of chess itself, making each move seem pedestrian and uninteresting. I wasn't expecting to see chess turned sexy, but Zwick takes no initiative to the teach the audience about the game or to make the pieces anything more than silent witnesses. I wasn't expecting the figures to jump out and start speaking, but Zwick could have shot the play better, choosing unique overhead and closeup angles to get the audience more involved. At the film's beginning, I was convinced Zwick was about to hand us a masterpiece, as Fischer imagines each move, which becomes diagrammed on the screen. But, that magic simply disappeared.

Maquire does his best as the snippy and unstable Fischer, whose paranoia of literally everything around him leads to his ultimate demise. But in it, Zwick and Co-Steven Knight take the wrong path, choosing to highlight Fischer's upbringing instead of the epic chess series and the effect it has on Fischer's spiraling neuroses. There was even a re-match of the two titans years later that I think could have provided for better drama than the stolid few glances Schreiber and Maguire eventually exchange. Surprisingly, they're in few scenes together, which burn white-hot and represent the film's best scenes. There's a mix of both 70's-era classic rock and a nice score by Composer James Newton Howard, but it's not enough to press the slow-burn strategy of Pawn into something magical.

In the end, Pawn Sacrifice is saved by its solid performances, but is constantly hampered by a lack of style and grace, two elements that make chess so appealing. It screams Oscar bait, but this King will have to take a draw.

Pawn Sacrifice is rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content and historical smoking and has a runtime of 114 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


Popular posts from this blog

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See THE SHAPE OF WATER In Cleveland #TheShapeofWater

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See THE SHAPE OF WATER on December 11th at 7:00 PM in Cleveland.

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER - an other-worldly fable, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones.


Visit The Shape Of Water on our WEBSITE:
Like The Shape Of Water on FACEBOOK:
Follow The Shape Of Water on TWITTER:




This screening w…

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See THE GREATEST SHOWMAN In Las Vegas

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See THE GREATEST SHOWMAN on December 10th at 10:00 AM in Las Vegas.

At this screening guests will enjoy free popcorn and soda, free face painting, and a free photo booth themed to the movie.

The Greatest Showman” is a bold and original musical that celebrates the birth of show business and the sense of wonder we feel when dreams come to life. Inspired by the ambition and imagination of P.T. Barnum, “The Greatest Showman” tells the story of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a mesmerizing spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

“The Greatest Showman” is directed by exciting new filmmaker, Michael Gracey, with songs by Academy Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land”) and starring Academy Award nominee Hugh Jackman. Jackman is joined by Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams, Zendaya, Zac Efron and Rebecca Ferguson.


Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See DOWNSIZING In Las Vegas

Enter For A Chance To Win Passes To See DOWNSIZING on December 19th at 7:00 PM in Las Vegas.

DOWNSIZING imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in Omaha in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.


DOWNSIZING is in theaters December 22

DOWNSIZING Official Channels
Hashtag: #Downsizing
Facebook: /DownsizingFilm
Twitter: @DownsizingFilm
Instagram: @DownsizingFilm




This screening will be monitored…