Director Edward Zwick’s Pawn Sacrifice is a worthy attempt to depict the Cold War period of the mid-‘60s, when Chess Master Bobby Fischer’s defeat of Russian players meant as much to the U.S. Government as it did to him.
The film is told in a docu-drama style from a script by Steven Knight based on a story by Stephen J. Rivele and Christopher Wilkinson.
While they succeed in giving a depiction of the times, they falter at depicting the drama of the game and its history. For instance, the flow of pieces in the reputed best single game in history between Fischer and Boris Spassky is not even dramatized.
The biggest problem with this story, however, is that, beset with undiagnosed personal demons, Bobby Fischer was not a very likeable guy and there are times when the viewer loses sympathy with him and doesn’t care if he wins or loses.
Toby Maguire tries hard to bring humanity to Fischer’s character, but the better performances are by Live Schreiber as Spassky and Peter Sarsgaard as Father Bill Lombardy, Fischer’s friend.
The sad part of this story is that, like Alan Turing (The Imitation Game), once Fischer gave the Government “its” victory, he became a castaway and had to live out his life in Iceland.
I give Pawn Sacrifice a 3.7 out of 5.