Thursday, October 1, 2015
The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union was waged on many fronts. One of the most intense and memorable confrontations took place not on a battlefield, or in a congressional hearing room, but in an indoor sports arena in Reykjavik, Iceland.
At this venue in 1972, the temperamental American chess phenom, Bobby Fischer, duked it out with defending Russian champion Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship, an event publicized at the time (and still thought of) as the Match of the Century.
There's a lot of drama here—Fischer's eccentricity, political agendas, the "big game" motif—most of which is used to good effect in the fiction film Pawn Sacrifice. While the plot revolves around the famous 1972 match, through canny use of select flashbacks (along with a harrowing glimpse into the future via newsreel footage at the very end), the film provides a long view into the unorthodox life and times of Fischer, forever teetering on the crumbling border between genius and madness.
Scripted by Steven Knight, the film is thoughtfully directed by Edward Zwick, veteran of TV's Thirtysomething and many other screen credits. In the starring role, Tobey Maguire has to ratchet down his innate likability to play Fischer in all his abrasive, paranoid complexity. Nobody (including the filmmakers) understands Fischer any better at film's end, but Zwick and company successfully reconstruct the context within which he rose to fame. (Read more)