The Cold War. A difference of philosophies and superiority, the Cold War was in fact a framing for a match of wits between the world’s two superpowers, the USSR and the United States. While both countries would excel at military build up, the sporting world saw a build up of another kind, in two chess prodigies, the basis of Edward Zwick’s stellar Pawn Sacrifice.
Primarily a biopic, Steven Knight’s riveting screenplay reveals the origins of chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, played by Tobey Maguire and his captivating win at the 1972 Grandmasters Championship, where he faced off against Russian Boris Spassky, played by Liev Schreiber. Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlberg, Lily Rabe and Robin Weigert round out a brilliant supporting cast.
Maguire brings a tenderness and gravitas to the troubled Fischer, whose unorthodox strategies and misunderstood demands make the character all the more riveting. Peter Sarsgaard as Father William Lombardy, a chess prodigy in his own right, supported Fischer through his chess endeavors giving him the emotional lifeline to needed win the match. Schreiber’s strong performance as Spassky, the only man who could truly understand Fischer’s power, is the highlight of the movie. Schreiber, a well-known thespian, brought an inspired stoicism to the role, which compliments the controlled [and uncontrolled] rage by Maguire.
Filmed in locations throughout California, Montreal, and Iceland, Bradford Young’s (Selma, A Most Violent Year) cinematography captures the essence of the world throughout the periods featured in the movie. Isabelle Guay’s superior set decoration brought the gritty realities of 1950’s homes and the overstuffed luxuries of the 1970’s to life, while James Newton Howard’s melodic score supports not only Fischer’s journey, but Spassky’s as well.
Sacrifice is respectful to its subject matter while displaying an accurate portrayal of the tenseness that gripped both nations. The movie asks the question of just how much a pawn Fischer was in his own game, while mobilizing a nation and the globe, gripped with fear into that of patriotism and support and is highly recommended.