Pawn Sacrifice (2014)

pawn sacrifice

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A few days ago I treated myself to a historical docu movie style drama, just over two hours and I don’t know why these entertain me more than any CG blockbuster 3D extravaganza, but they really do thrill me. My last fix was the Stanford Prison Experiment (2015) and that was incredible, but somehow with a subject that I know nothing about and had no interest in, this gripped me more.

Prawn Sacrifice (as I call it) has all the best qualities of a retro themed movie and the 1950s onwards has a lot of offer in terms of colours and design, the costumes and settings are all adequate, like Stanford it’s rooted in real events but these were very public and therefore it’s in injected with real news clips and adds in it’s own modern mock televised events, and these fit in seamlessly.  Much to my surprise that viewer doesn’t need to have any knowledge in chess in order to keep up as the film details an extremely unique individual and the political battlefield he was strategically playing as the game of chess launches from the board and into the film.

But it remains tactical and is genius in the way it expresses Fischer’s inner thinking.

I would like to think that any fans of the game or anyone who appreciates the games and players will get just as much from this as I did. It’s a long film (1h 55m) but so wha!? there is a tsunami of events and confused explanations to get to grips with, it appears that a lot happened in the time frame played out and in the ending scenes where are live footage clips of the real Fischer.

So the movie follows Fischer from childhood (at one age he’s the creepy kid from the Omen remake,so his second film with Schreiber) with an immigrant activist mother and her “friends” and lovers (no father) and how his love of chess was recognised and nourished until he eventually is noted a potential best player in the world, but how can he prove this? buy beating the number one, the reigning champion of course. But while all of this is happened Fischer’s mental health is tripping him up and his acute senses often pick up clicks on the phone and other noises, is he being bugged by the Russians? is the game so important that his country needs him to win? Surely it’s just a game of chess right? Both men, involved in this historic match are both being funded and used by their governments, hence the name, they are simple pawns and are readily being used as a sacrifice.

A stunning film in many aspects, enhanced by great acting, especially Paul Marshall (Michael Stuhlbarg) who acts as Fischer’s babysitter alongside the priestly Peter Sarsgaard, for most of the movie, there are the obvious scenes of patriotism, that’s how and why these films are made. The film failed to not show the Russians in anything but a bad light, constantly paranoid and travelling around in a little pack, and there could only be one view of USA on top constantly even when things were going down the pan. It was no shock to see Liev Schreiber get to play the lead Russian role as he’s so fluent in the language, but it was a good performance and strangely a re watchable film.

Edward Zwick is a solid director who is extremely good with these historical accounts and has worked with Schriber before in Defiance (2008), Overall I was thrilled by this thrilling ride of a film, it really picks up on a lot of firsts for Fischer, including his first defeat and even his first sexual encounter and all surrounded by a constant layer of chess moves, it’s almost surreal, to think about how much calculating occurs in the mind of a player.

Rating 9/10
Full review and post discussion to come.

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