Pawn Sacrifice Blu-ray Review
The lengths at which the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. went to try and fight one another without weapons, at least in hindsight, were childish. Sure it led to humankind landing a man on the Moon and a couple of other breakthroughs, but overall it was the equivalent of two young siblings fighting each other and forgetting what the fight was even about. Except in the Cold War, real lives were ruined and in some instances, the fragile physical, emotional, and mental toll it took was everlasting to those involved. PAWN SACRIFICE documents the infamous Bobby Fischer, as a pawn, left to fall apart after his job was done.
For those who don’t know who Bobby Fischer is, (I myself didn’t learn about him until high school because one of my teachers was a chess nut) he was one of the greatest chess players in the world. He was also a paranoid individual who said a lot of anti-Semitic remarks in his later years. Don’t all geniuses border on insanity though? But Fischer’s paranoia only grew as the U.S. consistently pushed him to a must-win match against the world’s best chess player, a Russian.
Early on in Fischer’s (Maguire) life, paranoia is prevalent. His mom is from Russia and supports Communism, which means they’re being monitored by the FBI. This is a real life fact. I looked it up. Over his early childhood years, he became proficient at chess, and soon a grandmaster, beating people at will, hastily and multiple at once. He draws the attention of the U.S. who are ready to use him in one of their menial war games. But also through his own personal tenacity, Fischer’s determined to take on Boris Spassky (Schreiber), the world, and Russian, chessmaster.
Along the way, Fischer becomes increasingly paranoid. He suspects the U.S. is spying on him, and then he suspects the Russians of doing the same. He then suspects the Russians collude against him and then he suspects the U.S. of doing the same. He eventually becomes so mistrustful that he suspects his close friends who coach him mentally before games of spying and collusion. Is any of this actually happening? Don’t know. I looked it up even. It’s possible and even PAWN SACRIFICE plays with the idea enough to say, “Maybe.”
The chess, and even Bobby Fischer himself, isn’t the focal point of the movie. It’s about the psychological warfare that takes place, on the chessboard and between the two bitter countries. Chess, inherently, is a game about strategy and attempting to read how your opponent will react to your moves and his potential future moves. But PAWN SACRIFICE also shows us how Fischer, even Spassky, slowly unravel from the pressure. We see the true psychological harm done by two countries who refused to allow a single word be uttered without something recording them.
The scrambling of Fischer’s mind is encapsulated by Tobey Maguire, who highlights the depth of madness that Fischer is diving into. Maguire’s spot-on and overwhelming stellar performance also highlights why it’s a shame the actor has disappeared from movies ever since his stint as Spiderman. The physical ticks, the mad pace at which he tears apart a room looking for a microphone, and the darting of those panicked eyes, are magnificently conducted by Maguire.
The script is sharp, but the movie goes a little long towards the end, hindering what should have been an award winning movie with an award winning performance by Maguire. For those somewhat versed in Fischer’s life, even in the slightest, will know that he’ll have no problem conquering his hammer and sickle foe once he gains his swagger. I didn’t expect PAWN SACRIFICE to be a political thriller, but it certainly makes a case for being the best one in recent memory.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) Extreme close-ups highlight the crystal clear picture quality on this blu-ray. The clothes, furniture, and nuances of the time are captured very well, visually.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) No problems with the audio mixing on this blu-ray. The soundtrack is lossless and the dialogue is spotless.
Bobby Fischer, The Cold War, and the Match of the Century (3:17): A feature that overviews the movie very quickly. Adds nothing and reveals nothing.