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8/10
One of the surprise movies of the year that deserves a bigger audience than it will get. I really enjoyed this & recommend it
cosmo_tiger23 December 2015
"Bobby won't crack, he will explode." Ever since he was a young boy Bobby Fischer (Maguire) has been obsessed with chess. His dream of becoming the youngest world champion ever has been crushed by the Russian's way of playing and he slowly starts to lose his mind. Wanting to prove to everyone, and himself that is is the best in the world he sets up a series of matches with Boris Spassky (Schreiber), the best player in the world. As the match draws closer Fischer begins to descend further into madness and it starts to affect his ability to play. I knew very little about the real story of Bobby Fischer before watching this so most of this was new to me. For a movie about chess I have to say the movie was actually pretty exciting to watch, and Maguire really surprised me with his acting. I'm not sure how historically accurate this is but watching it the tenseness was there and you really felt uncomfortable for and with Bobby. One of the surprise movies of the year that deserves a bigger audience than it will get. I really enjoyed this and recommend it. Overall, great acting and great drama. More movies like this should be made. I give it an A-.
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Interesting movie with a solid performance from Tobey Maguire
Dr_Sagan16 December 2015
I think I have seen a few movies about chess and like in all movies concerning competitive sports I know that it could be very interesting and inspiring. So don't assume that this is a boring movie because of its theme.

This is based on the real life of chess legend Bobby Fischer who after he became world champion, he lived a secluded, solitary life possibly because of a mental illness which made him paranoid.

I am not a fan of Tobey Maguire (poor choice for Spiderman IMO) but he gives a convincing performance in this. His tantrums and his stares as he is building irrational thoughts about conspiracies and imaginable dangers are s strong plus to the film.

The pace of the film is also good and the music by the veteran James Newton Howard follows the emotions with grace.

Overall: Recommended
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9/10
Don't you think it is too good?
nagsaptarshi19 February 2016
I was bit skeptic on whether I should watch this movie or not.There has been so much of slamming of this movie.It did not even have a wide release.But thank God, I dared to watch.It is one of most intense movies of recent times.From the beginning,your eyes remain glued to the screen.The historic match between Spassky and Fisher has been depicted so vividly, that at times you forget that you are watching a movie.Tobey Maguire has been criticized a lot for his portrayal of the legendary chess player.But I found him too good.His acting was as intense as this movie.The frowning, the clenching, the swing of mood everything was made so much believable.Liev Shreiber, too has done a commendable job as Spassky.The cinematography is excellent.The close shots deserve to be mentioned in particular.Finally, a good film from a brilliant director like Zwick after a pause.Do not miss this movie.
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9/10
brilliant but disturbed
blanche-215 February 2016
Well, the reviewer before me absolutely trashed this film for its dramatic license, so now I don't know what to say.

This is the highly fictionalized story of Bobby Fischer, a chess fanatic and genius who rose to the very top of his field. He was part of a Russia vs. U.S. superiority struggle when he played Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), the world champion back then, in the '70s. It's unlikely he understood that; he didn't have a broad or worldly focus. The chess was all he cared about, that and money.

Biopics sometimes take a lot of liberties. Characters are made up, time is shortened, incidents are moved around, elements are put in for dramatic emphasis. That's why you can't take a biographical film as factual. It's better if you become interested in the person and read about him, as I did about Fischer, though I remember him.

Toby Maguire does a fantastic job as Fischer. Yes, Fischer was tall and Maguire is short. Frankly I wasn't made aware of Maguire's height while watching the film.

I believe the filmmakers were trying to give us a psychological story -- a complete genius with an IQ of 181 but one who also had mental problems. Lots of so-called geniuses are strange, I suppose, but Fischer was a real study in opposites.

He often made unreasonable, last-minute demands, made anti-Semite remarks, and accused the Russians of colluding against him. In the second game of his world championship against Spassky, he didn't show up. Nevertheless, his achievements in chess were remarkable, and many consider him the greatest chess player who ever lived.

His later life was a mess; he became reclusive; his passport was revoked and finally, Iceland took him in. By then he was off the wall completely.

Edward Zwick directed this film with a lot of zip and made it an intense and absorbing experience, as did the actors.

Look at this as the psychological story of a phenomenal talent whose emotional/mental problems interfered with his life and career. Don't take it as the detailed life of Bobby Fischer, his relationship with his mother, and who taught him what. The most interesting thing about him was his incredible talent.
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8/10
Great acting, interesting story
Morten_51 May 2017
Tobey Maguire is a very fine actor. Regrettably, he is not cast very frequently and since the failure of "Spider-Man 3" in 2007, his fans have not seen very much of him. With "Pawn Sacrifice", however, he once again showed his talent, depicting American chess genius and grandmaster Bobby Fischer from his childhood years up to the famous World Chess Championship in Reykjavík, Iceland in 1972. Co-starring Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg, the film has no lack of good acting.
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9/10
Come follow me and I will make you a Fischer of men
asher-luberto6 October 2015
Pawn Sacrifice is an engaging and well made biopic that is a rich work of cinema.

This flick takes place during the cold war, where America legend Bobby Fischer finds himself in the middle of a political crisis between America and the Soviet Empire. The movie starts out by showing Bobby Fischer( played by Tobey Maguire) towards the beginning of his life, and portrays the struggles he endured which affected him later on in his life. The movie later shows him as a rising chess star and before you know it, he is an adult; and one of the best chess players in the world. He soon finds himself as a pawn in Americas Cold War, and has to take on the number one chess player in the world, Boris Spassky.

This movie is brilliantly directed (Edward Zwick), and gives you an emotional feel for Fischer, and the cinematography is excellent. The supporting cast was good, but Tobey Mcguire stole the show,giving one of the best performances of the year.

Pawn Sacrifice is an engaging and well-made biopic with solid performances.
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9/10
Intense!
Ramascreen14 September 2015
A well-crafted biopic about one of the greatest matches in history. A career-defining performance by Tobey Maguire. Who knew that a movie about a game of chess could be so suspenseful and riveting. You won't be able to take your eyes off of it.

Director Ed Zwick is the man who gave us "Glory," "The Last Samurai," "Defiance," basically movies that have epic battlefield sequences, so it's interesting that his battlefield has been scaled down to the size of a chessboard but it's just as colossal, this is a story back in the era when the whole world was watching which of the two ideologies, United States or the Soviets would ultimately win, tension was running high but instead of bullets or nuclear weapons which both regions did have, it all came down to between Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) and Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) and even if the movie may or may not want to preach about which is the ultimate victor, it did capture the animosity in the air, so sharp it can cut through glass, the hatred against communism at the time.

Written by Steven Knight, who gave us "Eastern Promises," and "Locke," I think Knight gives in to Hollywood's long-held fascination with brilliance and madness, it's a lot like "A Beautiful Mind," where a person is so brilliant that his mind just snaps. Now, I didn't grow up knowing a lot about Bobby Fischer, my dad taught me how to play chess when I was a kid, but I was terrible at it, which is why I turned to soccer. My point is, I don't know how out of touch Fischer really was, and this movie itself is not a straight adaptation, but I think PAWN SACRIFICE accomplishes what it set out to do from the start, this correlation between genius and paranoia or insanity.

Mad props to actors Tobey Maguire and Liev Schreiber who, under the direction of Ed Zwick, successfully manage to dramatize the game of chess. Because chess matches are usually silent, so everything heavily relies on the actors' facial expressions, it's all in the eyes and the body language in order to understand the game's intensity. The movie has to also entertain those who may not play chess and so it does, and it's a testament to the amazing performances by Maguire and Schreiber.The movie also brings up a good point that I think would leave the audiences conflicted. Because we would feel like Bobby Fischer would need medical treatment, but a part of us also don't want to hinder or get in the way of brilliance, out of selfish reasons of course, because we would want that brilliance to work in our favor. We badly want to see the master play but at what cost.
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8/10
Better Than Expected, Great Subject Matter.
Jerominator31 December 2015
Was hesitant to watch this - didn't like the casting of Maguire as Fischer. Ended up watching it anyway out of curiosity as this story has intrigued me for many years. I still think Maguire was the wrong choice to play Fischer. I would like to have seen Ryan Gosling or a younger Josh Lucas attempt it. At least somebody who could carry off that particular New York accent as that was one of his hallmarks for me. But that notwithstanding, if Tobey was the only choice available then I think he did a hell of a good job. I really enjoyed this. Edward Zwick knows how to put a movie together. Great supporting performances from Sarsgaard, Stuhlbarg and Schreiber. Having followed the story before I got the general impression they were trying to remain faithful to what happened at the chess championship in '72. I'm not sure how much of the mental illness stuff I buy. Clearly there was some kind of paranoia going on there - and the film deals with that well - but I think a lot is projected onto this after the fact. Secondary gains. A lot is conveniently bundled into the mental illness bucket which may just have just been the man's world view. And I think that is disrespectful to a brilliant man who is no longer here to defend himself. But that's not so much a criticism of the film as the general view of Fischer out there now. That said, I think this particular film probably handled it more respectfully than most would have done. So overall it was a lot better than expected. Definitely worth a watch - it's an extraordinary real life story about the extremes of obsession required to compete at that level, and the toll that it can, and often does, take. A subject not too often tackled in a world that worships competition for prizes.
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8/10
The intersection of celebrity, politics, mental illness, and chess
cherold26 August 2016
When I was a kid, Bobby Fischer was a big deal. He was a brilliant chess player known for his eccentricities. And I was perplexed as to how chess had become a big deal.

Turns out it was another cold war proxy fight in which the U.S. and Russia were trying to prove their inherent superiority. This was not Bobby Fischer's idea; he just wanted to be a chess champ. In the movie, he's fairly oblivious to the tides of history, at least until he gets caught up in paranoid theories.

This is a very interesting movie with a terrific performance by Tobey Maguire that manages to make chess riveting even if, like me, you have to real idea what's going on. The story it tells is clear and concise, as a mercurial Fischer descends into paranoia while those around him push him forward at any cost.

In fact, the story is a little too neat. The movie feels very much like the movie you'd expect to see if you remember Bobby's weird demands and celebrity. But usually life is a little more complicated than a movie. Reading about Fischer on wikipedia, I saw things that didn't fit in with the movie's view. For example, Fischer was unusually athletic for a chess player, working out regularly during the World Championship, and his love life went beyond hooking up with a prostitute; he later married, which is hard to imagine of Maguire's version.

Still, this is a fascinating, well paced movie that is constantly engaging. This is one of these movies, like All the President's Men, that has figured out how to bring intense drama to hard work and tedious thoroughness.

It also makes me wish I'd actually read some of those chess books my dad bought me; I always just sort of stumbled through without ever understanding the complexities of the game.
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6/10
Worth seeing but a bit disappointing
DeeNine-230 April 2016
This is a nice vehicle for Tobey Maguire who does a good job of portraying a paranoid schizophrenic, but that person is not Robert James Fischer. They got Maguire's hair style right but otherwise any resemblance between the tall, lanky, expansive Bobby Fischer and Maguire is slight. He probably didn't see enough footage of Fischer at that age. He didn't use any of Fischer's mannerisms that I noticed and of course Fischer was several inches taller. Liev Schreiber who played Spassky actually looks a bit like Spassky but is bigger and more robust. So we have in the movie Fischer vs. Spassky at the chess board but Spassky bigger than Fischer! As for games mentioned in some detail I had to go back to the first and sixth games of the match to recall what happened and to compare my perception with that of the commentary in the movie. The sixth game was a brilliant game as almost everybody agrees, but contrary to some popular opinion Fischer did not blunder away his bishop in game one. He and Spassky were in a clearly drawn bishop and pawn ending. He wanted more, but there was nothing he could do, so what he did was sacrifice his bishop for two pawns, not as some people think in an attempt to win the game but to show his confidence and to shake Spassky up a bit. Fischer thought the resulting position after many moves would be a draw. He was wrong but this is an example of Fischer psychology: I will make you play a hundred moves if necessary just to show you how strong I am. You will weaken not me.

Some reviewers pointed out some chessic type errors but there weren't that many and they were minor. Here's one they got right that may surprise some people. Notice that Fischer used the descriptive notation ("P-K4") while most other grandmasters even back in 1972 used algebraic notation ("e4"). And while there were chess clock on analyst boards where they serve no purpose at least the boards were set up right with the white square at the player's right hand, avoiding a common error in movies.

Probably the biggest error had nothing to do with chess but with the fact that Fischer's mental illness at the time of the Spassky match had not developed as much as the movie suggests. His personality was more rounded than displayed. He actually had a charming side. People liked him in spite his bad manners and selfishness. There's a YouTube video of him on TV with Bob Hope filmed sometime shortly after the match with Spassky that shows a very different Fischer than the one Maguire portrayed.

The bit with the girl (sarcastically she says to Fischer: "it was good for me too" as he studies a chess game in bed) was apparently director Edward Zwick's take on the nagging question of Fischer's sexuality, meaning yes he was heterosexual, but chess was just more interesting.

The real disappointment for me was that they did not make clear the really great triumphant of Fischer's preceding the championship match. He destroyed three of the top grandmasters en route to the title match, at one point winning 20 games in a row. Amazing. The greatest streak in grandmaster history. So he was a clear favorite although Spassky was the World Champion. That's why he wanted so much to win the first game and confirm immediately that he was clearly superior.

I was also disappointed that Fischer's life after winning the championship was not explored. I had hoped for a cinematic take on what happened to "The Wandering King" (the title of a book about his life by Hans Bohm and Kees Jongkind). Perhaps that material would be better presented in a documentary than in a popular flick.

Bottom line: worth seeing but not as good as I had hoped.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
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9/10
exhilarating! -- an extraordinary achievement
A_Different_Drummer9 December 2015
Your humble reviewer was not present at the script meetings, but you cannot help but conclude that writer Steven Knight set out to do the near-impossible -- with a minimalist presentation, no CGI or special effects, not even slo-mo, make a chess movie that packed as much punch for the viewer as Ali-Foreman, or any other sports event you might name.

This wonderful film is like the bumblebee. On paper it should not fly. In real life, it soars.

This film works and works atreat. Maybe not the greatest biopic ever but darn close.

It helps that the topic is a man who even those of us who "remember the era" barely knew or understood.

Maguire gives the performance of his life. If you use a stopwatch you will be astonished at how much of his performance is merely facial expressions in close up. And it works.

The rest of the cast is solid as a rock. Schreiber leaves Ray Donovan so far behind you would think this is a different actor. Sarsgaard, one of the most empathetic actors in the game, is the glue that keeps the film together.

Mesmerizing from beginning to end. Exceeds expectations.

And here is a tip.

According to media legend, after the Spassky match, Fischer did a 7 minute comedy bit on Bob Hope where he not only showed perfect timing but more importantly showed none of the eccentricities on which this script was based. Watching this clip just after seeing this film (from one of the many "tube" sites - Google it) is an unexpected bonus for being a child of the digital age.
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4/10
Selective look at the life and times of Bobby Fischer: "Bobby has problems.... So did Mozart"
paul-allaer26 September 2015
"Pawn Sacrifice" (2015 release; 115 min.) is a fictional bio-pick about chess legend Bobby Fischer. As the movie opens, we get archive TV news footage from a bunch of different countries with the shocking news that Bobby Fischer did not show up for Game 2 of the Chess World Championship, as we see Fischer holed up in his room, refusing to come out. We then go back to "15 November '51, Brooklyn, NY", where we meet 8 yr. old Bobby, growing up with his mom. We already see his mind getting restless quickly, but also starting to astonish with his chess moves. At this point we're maybe 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: when I herd earlier this year that a movie was being made about the life and times of Bobby Fischer, and that it was directed by none other than Edward Zwick (the director of "Glory" and "Defiance", among others), I was pretty excited about it. Alas, it was not to be. What I thought would be a bio-pick on Fischer's life, turns out to be a very selective look instead. The movie's focus is clearly, and almost to the exclusion of everything else, on the 1972 World Championship against Boris Spassky. Yes, we do get a few glimpses of the younger Fischer. Fischer's mental problems do not get examined in-depth but are dealt with hastily. "Bob has problems" comments Father Lombarty, to which someone responds "So did Mozart", and end of story. Most disappointing for me was that the film essentially stops with Fischer's win in 1972. The remaining 36 years of his life, which remain clouded in mystery for a good part, are dismissed in about 2 minutes at the end of the movie. The leading acting performances, with Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky, are quite good, but keep your eye out as well for up-and-coming Canadian actress Évelyne Brochu in the role of Donna, Fischer's very first girlfriend (when he already was in his 20s). If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the life and times of Bobby Fischer, I'd readily recommend the excellent 2011 documentary "Bobby Fischer Against The World".

"Pawn Sacrifice" opened this weekend on five screens for all of Greater Cincinnati. I was eager to see it. The matinée screening where I saw this at today turned out to be a private screening, as in: I literally was the only person in the theater. I can't imagine that this movie will stick around for more than a couple of weeks in the theater. I encourage you to check out "Pawn Sacrifice" for yourself, be it in the theater, on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusions.
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1/10
It Should Say "Based on a true story?"
contactdanielphillips10 December 2015
I found it very disappointing that the creators of this movie pointed Bobby Fischer out to be a lunatic rather than having the guts to make a more balanced, controversial film.

The Hollywood-tinted spectacles this film plops on the viewers faces fail to explain how Mr Fischer was used like a pawn himself before being cast into the darkness when his country was finished with him.

The film gave us a few tiny, weeny little clips right at the end to skip over the more important details of how he was treated after the Cold War.

He doesn't like chess, he is more interested in exposing the lies of the American Government.

He called out George Bush for being a lunatic and a law-breaker while passionately claiming all he wants is "the truth".

That doesn't sound like a raving madman to me, nor does being paranoid playing world championship chess against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Especially with a family from Russia.

The acting was fine, Spiderman and Wolverine's brother did well to keep their mutant abilities in check for some good chess.

I've given this movie 1 star primarily because it felt like Hollywood propaganda and a cowardly cop-out.

It should say "Based on a true story?"
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7/10
Is it Paranoia if they are after you?
ferguson-617 September 2015
Greetings again from the darkness. Being such a fan of the expert documentary film BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011), I found it a bit challenging to clear my head and accept a dramatized approach to the story. This was after all, one of the most fascinating reluctant public figure during one of the most energizing signature events of the Cold War between Russia and the United States … it was even described as World War III on a chess board.

Director Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond) and writer Steven Knight (Locke, "Peaky Blinders") wisely focus the story on the infamous World Chess Championship match in 1972 between American Bobby Fischer and Russian Boris Spassky. This was 8 years prior to the "Miracle on Ice" when the USA Olympic hockey team upset the powerhouse Russian hockey team, but this chess match caused every bit as much media frenzy and national pride as that day in Lake Placid. This international attention is as important to the story as the psychological state of Bobby Fischer and his genius-level chess skill. And it's the media and citizenry reactions that provide the contemporary comparison to what we see too often these days thanks to social media … icons are born, chewed up, and forgotten.

Tobey Maguire plays Fischer, and despite lacking the height and physical presence of the real chess champion, he expertly conveys the paranoia, fear, and arrogance that burdened the man and created even more suspense for those of us keeping a watchful eye at the time. Liev Schreiber ("Ray Donovan") plays Boris Spassky, and even speaks his lines in Russian. Schreiber captures the iciness for which the Russians were known, but also interjects subtle personality and insight in a story where his adversary is constantly over-the-top. Chess strategy isn't so much the story here, as are these two men from different worlds forced together on a stage in Iceland – with the full attention of the world.

Supporting work is varied, but exceptionally strong. Robin Weigert plays Bobby's mother, and we get glimpses of why he later suffered from Mommy issues – in no small part to her intimate gatherings of Communist friends. Lily Rabe is touching as Bobby's sister and possibly the only person who ever had his best interest at heart. However, the real intrigue comes in the form of Peter Sarsgaard as Father Bill Lombardy, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Paul Marshall. Lombardy was Fischer's coach and confidant, and seemed to be the only one who grasped the severity of Bobby's mental state. Marshall, a well known attorney in the Music industry, is a shady fellow who seems connected to the government, and is really the driving force behind getting Fischer to play Spassky. More background and the motivation for these two gentlemen would have been welcome and filled a gap.

The story of the tortured genius always makes entertaining fodder – think Van Gogh, Mozart, and John Nash. Bobby Fischer certainly fits that description, but his story is frustrating because we just don't understand the mental issues that caused him to evolve from teenage chess prodigy to World Champion to literal anti-social outcast spewing hateful words (watch the end credit film clips). This film is a worthy primer for the man and the times, and a reminder that we are always searching for the next hero … the next person to hoist up on the pedestal, only to be replaced soon after with another, and then another. Perhaps the film says as much as about us as a people, as it does about Bobby Fischer as a person.
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1/10
Sanitized History, Plain and Simple
chas43728 January 2018
I suppose this is a nice story and the cast is top notch, but the film bares little resemblance to actual people and events. But what is unforgivable, the film gets Bobby Fischer completely wrong, and in doing so, attempts to sanitize the man's legacy.

Tobey McGuire is a talented actor, but this was a terrible casting choice. His mannerisms, speaking style and physical appearance are way, way off. The real Fischer was a tall, dark, brooding, anti-social figure. His ugliness on the inside manifested itself in his outward appearance. Tobey McGuire is simply too likeable to play such a role. He tries really hard, but its just not believable.

I'm old enough to remember the World Championship match in Iceland in 1972. It captivated the world and made chess popular in the mainstream. Fischer's victory gave America a much needed morale boost during the depths of the Cold War.

So, while it was a triumphant moment for America, it was the beginning of a long, painful descent into madness and infamy for Bobby Fischer. The film portrays Fischer as a somewhat lovable eccentric with a paranoid personality. In reality, Fischer was almost certainly somewhere high on the Autistic spectrum. He had other serious mental disorders as well. None of this was clinically diagnosed, but was evident in his actions over the years. He was a loner who treated people very badly. He died penniless, friendless, as an international criminal. His was not a life to be celebrated.

A much better film on the subject is the 2011 documentary "Bobby Fischer Against the World". Even the early-90s film "Searching for Bobby Fischer" tells us more about the man, and the phenomenon than "Pawn Sacrifice" does.

"Pawn Sacrifice" is really a big waste of time and resources. The producers badly missed the mark here. The one bright spot is Liev Schreiber who is a perfect Boris Spassky. Frankly, they should have just made a film about Spassky with Schreiber in the lead. Schreiber is one of our very best actors.

What is most troubling about this film, as well as many films these days, its attempting to revise history in a way that is most palatable to the masses. This film really misses the point of Bobby Fischer's' life.
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6/10
Expected more from this movie...
Thanos_Alfie17 February 2018
"Pawn Sacrifice" is a drama movie based on the life of chess prodigy Bobby Fischer who during Cold War tries to win and become the number one chess player in the world (World Chess Champion). In his journey faces many difficulties not only from the Soviet Unions players but also from his owns demons.

I have to say that I expected more from this movie because I am always fascinated from biography movies.Despite the good directing made by Edward Zwick, Tobey Maguire makes a poor performance as Bobby Fischer. I liked the interpretations of Liev Schreiber who plays as Boris Spassky and he is very good at it, Peter Sarsgaard who plays as Father Bill Lombardy and Michael Stuhlbarg who plays as Paul Marshall. I believe that these three interpretations saved this movie and I cannot even imagine what would have happened if they wouldn't be there.

Finally I believe that "Pawn Sacrifice" is a medium movie, don't have high expectations and you won't be disappointed. It's just a simple movie for your spare time and nothing more.
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10/10
Who would have believed a chess match could be so gripping on screen!
barev-8509414 October 2015
PAWN SACRIFICE, Biography of a Mad American Chess Prodigy Viewed at the Jameson Cinefest in Miskokc, September 2015, By Herbert Rodin Pevner-Deleon

"Pawn Sacrifice" the masterful biopic of the bumpy life of highly controversial American chess prodigy Bobby Fisher did not cash in on any prizes at the Miskolc festival, but to me it was easily the highlight of the festival week. Okay, I came of age intellectually during the Bobby Fisher years, always admired his rebellious spirit and sheer brilliance, played a little chess myself. and can therefore relate to this picture from a personal perspective, but aside from that, this is a meticulously constructed docu-drama with an uncanny Oscar worthy performance by Toby McGuire as Fischer, most skillfully steered through the historical Cold War setting by veteran Hollywood director, Edward Zwick.

Above all Mcguire, who is rather short of stature and does not physically resemble the tall handsome Fischer in the least, nevertheless nails Fischer's complex fuming, unpredictable, mercurial character and personality so thoroughly that physical resemblance becomes a moot point as the story progresses. The film traces Fischer's life from a troubled childhood in Brooklyn (with outstanding juvenile roles) up through national celebrity as a young chess wizard, international political celebrity when he confronts Russian Chess grandmaster Boris Spassky at the height of the Cold War in Reykjavik in 1972, and finally, his decline into paranoid obscurity in his antisemitic anti-American later years.

The electrically charged chessboard battle of the titans in Iceland -- billed at the time as "The Match of the Century" and symbolically as a major superpower Cold War confrontation, is the centerpiece of the current film -- amazing that a series of chess games can be so action packed and full of suspense on screen -- kudos to Director Zwick.

The title of the film refers to a well known chess move in which one of the eight pawns is sacrificed to gain a temporary strategic advantage. In this case it is clearly meant to resonate with Bobby's own sacrifice on the alter of American "justice" when he defied a State Department ban on travel to Jugoslavia in 1992 to engage in a nostalgic rematch with Spassky. Fischer won the rematch in Belgrade but had his passport revoked and subsequently became a refugee from American Law for the rest of his life -- bouncing around incognito from country to country behind a full beard he had grown as a disguise.

For a time he took up refuge in Chigasaki, Japan, under the tutelage and protection of Go expert Waclaw Lukasiewicz, but was arrested by the Japs and threatened with deportation, until Iceland finally offered him asylum and full citizenship. By now, totally freaked out (never emotionally stable in the best of times) and Convinced that not only the CIA, but the Russian MVD and the international Jewish Conspiracy as well, were all out to get him, he constantly made vicious anti-American and vitriolic anti- semitic statements -- the latter in despite of (or because of) his own Jewish background. Fischer died alone in Reykjavik in 2008 at the age of 64 a raving maniac in a full white beard -- in the very city where he had reached the pinnacle of his fame 36 years before. In a detailed assessment of the film long term Fischer friend and associate Sam Sloan has pointed out a number of minor historical inconsistencies (exact names and dates and slightly variant chess moves) but was very moved by Mcguire's tremendous portrayal of Bobby the man and the overall quality of the picture, both as entertainment and a powerful document of a most intriguing and important American life, now all but forgotten.
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6/10
Very Disappointing
drjgardner26 September 2015
The story of Bobby Fischer is a fascinating one, with personal as well as global implications, and it occurred at one of the most interesting times in recent history. How then could you go wrong?

Start with a superficial biography of Fischer, especially his early years. Try to give us no clues as to how his obsessive disorder developed, or how his paranoia slowly took over his persona. By doing that you leave us adrift, simply observers watching a "crazy" man do all kinds of self-defeating things.

Then ignore the game of chess. Treat it like it was any other competition. Don't delve into the intricacies of the game - its demands - the strategies that people develop - their characteristic approaches to the game. Just give us close ups of chess pieces and people thinking. That will surely dull us to sleep.

Now ignore the other central character in the drama so there is no one to root for. Not the crazy man nor the strong silent one.

This is a tragic waste of talent and a sad attempt to tell a truly fascinating story.
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7/10
It's a great sports flick about a The Rock Star of the chess world.
subxerogravity22 September 2015
The basics of a sports movie as Bobby Fischer, the underdog from Brooklyn, takes on the Giants behind the iron certain, but no competition was bigger than the one he faced with his own mind.

Tobey McGuire gives a decent performance of Fisher, a man tormented by his own genius. Liev Schreiber was fascinating as the ultimate opponent, a man whose reputation is more menacing than the man himself. Peter Sarsgaard was a great supporting actor as a priest and coach to fisher.

Edward Zwick crafted a quiet movie that showcased the loudness in fisher's mind. Pawn Sacrifice really captures the time in which Bobby Fisher was to chess what Floyd Mayweather is to boxing now.

It was a great movie about the life of a great athlete.
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6/10
Did You Learn Anything About...Genius, Mental Illness, The Cold War, Chess?
LeonLouisRicci28 April 2016
There are Three Things at Play in this Film.

1. Genius-Mental Illness Link

2. The Cold War

3. World Championship Chess

The Movie, Unfortunately, does not Enlighten or Inform on Any of These Things. It just Shows them on the Screen. It's Superficial and Exploitative using the aforementioned as nothing more than Filling Space like a Cable News Channel with Talking Heads and Fancy Pictorials, that are Entertaining to a Point but Pointless in the Big Picture.

Pick 1 of those 3, Any 1, and Do Something with it, Anything.

Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer and Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky go through the "Talking Points" of the Script with Professionalism and bring Their Acting Chops to the Proceedings and Proceed to Project Clichés and Go through Meaningless Moves, as does the Writer and Director. But the Underlying Motivations behind the Three Parts of the Story are Virtually Absent.

All of this is Nothing more than a Pedestrian Picture with very Little Interest and very little Heart other than Regurgitating Headlines and Culling Pop Chart Timelines.

A Major Disappointment, Uninspired, and Mundane Movie Making reduced to Claptrap.
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3/10
Take my pawn. Take my king. Just end it.... Please!
bob_meg14 December 2015
Let me start off by saying that I'm not a Tobey hater. He's no Olivier but when there's something to bring, he brings it. That something, unfortunately, is nowhere to be found in Ed Zwick's leadenly-directed "Pawn Sacrifice" and Stephen Knight's pointless, uninsightful, and often downright boring script.

My main problem with the film is that Knight establishes virtually no empathy for Bobby Fischer, even in the early scenes. His dad ran out on the family, Mom is a doting but loving mess, and Bobby, though very intelligent obviously has some mental issues, bordering on psychotic paranoia. Why this is, however, is never explored and neither the script nor Maguire's performance lets us into his head even for a second.

I expected Pawn Sacrifice to show us something we didn't already know about the famous Game 6 with Boris Spasky, perhaps how all the political sturm and drang unhinged the already volatile personalities at center stage. It doesn't. It's really just a series of Maguire's increasingly deranged demands and violent freak-outs that become more and more tedious to endure.

Edward Zwick, who usually directs light, comedic, *very* commercial fare is a horrible choice for a director, but it's par for the clueless course of Universal's dumb-em-down blockbuster mill lately (It's almost where I have to restrain myself from fleeing the theater when I see or hear the logo and cue anymore). You can see the script doctoring right in the credits (3 writers on story alone? Really?) and on the screen. In an incredibly crass and dumb script-o-tronic device, Bobby loses his virginity to a hooker (natch) who then turns into one of his most knowledgeable and ardent fans. See everyone? Bobby's appeal crosses ALL gender, race, and social boundaries! Yippee! What a bunch of worn-out pap.

There is also no suspense built in the matches themselves as we very rarely, if ever, get a close look at the board. Presumably though, we are too stupid to understand the game of chess, so why bother? Why bother indeed. Maybe a Stand and Deliver checkers tournament is in the works right now. Edward James Almos, where are you when we need you?
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8/10
I didn't know chess could be so intense & thrilling!
Anurag-Shetty20 September 2015
Pawn Sacrifice is a true story about American chess legend, Bobby Fischer(Tobey Maguire). Ever since he was a boy, Bobby Fischer has been great at playing chess. In fact, he's obsessed with chess. Even when Bobby is not playing chess, he still plays chess in his head. By the time he grows up, Bobby has won several chess tournaments throughout America. During the Cold War, Bobby Fischer faces his toughest opponent yet, Russian chess player Boris Spassky(Liev Schreiber). The two of them compete for the title of World Chess Champion. However, Bobby starts crumbling under the pressure. As the competition gets more intense, Bobby Fischer must fight his inner demons if he truly wants to win the title.

Pawn Sacrifice is an outstanding film. The film is very tense & full of dramatic moments. The chess matches between Bobby Fischer & Boris Spassky are extremely exciting & will keep you on the edge of your seat. The film doesn't move at a lightning fast pace but, still kept me hooked right till the end. However, don't watch this movie if you're not a big fan of indie dramas. This film truly becomes unforgettable, due to the performance of Tobey Maguire. Maguire has come a long way since his Spider-Man days. Tobey Maguire is flawless & gives an electrifying performance as Bobby Fischer. Maguire brilliantly portrays Bobby's aggression & paranoia. It's Spidey, like you've never seen him before! Peter Sarsgaard is great as Father Bill Lombardy. Liev Schreiber is superb as Boris Spassky. Michael Stuhlbarg is awesome as Paul Marshall. Lily Rabe & Robin Weigert are spectacular as Joan Fischer & Regina Fischer respectively. Evelyn Brochu is impressive as Donna. Aiden Lovekamp & Seamus Davie-Fitzpatrick are amazing as Young Bobby Fischer & Teen Bobby Fischer respectively. Pawn Sacrifice is a must watch for people who love dramas & Tobey Maguire fans.
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1/10
Somewhat entertaining, but riddled with clichés
CineCritic251719 October 2015
Maquire plays Fischer, the chess prodigy from Brooklyn in a run of the mil drama about a man's attempt to become world champion in his craft.

The structure of the film is one we have already seen a thousand times, from the Rocky movies to more contemporary films like the Great Debaters. In those films, the hero is an underdog whereas in this one, Fischer clearly is not, although one could consider him as such given his mental instability.

With little surprises as the film progresses, the audience is treated to the idiosyncrasy and paranoia of Fischer which seemed in the end to be neither here nor there. Yet, with decent acting from just about every one involved, the movie still manages to entertain as it builds up to the famous 1972 confrontation between Fischer and Spassky as the latter defends his world championship title.

6/10
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7/10
Terrific Tobey
gsygsy10 December 2015
A magnificent, barnstorming performance from Tobey Maguire is the mainstay of this interesting movie about chess champion Bobby Fischer. Maguire's technique runs the gamut, from tiny eye movements to full-scale harangues, from the subtlest of gestures to the wildest.He builds Bobby on a bedrock of self-confidence while also managing to suggest that same confidence is a massive defence against vulnerability. The film makes a parallel between Fischer's paranoia and that of America in the Cold War, but what could merely have been an idea is made vivid by Maguire's stupendous acting.

He is very well supported by Michael Stulhbarg, Peter Sarsgaard and Liev Schreiber. Women don't get much of a look-in, unfortunately, but of the three who emerge from the male fog Robin Weigert makes a strong impression as Fischer's beleaguered mother.

Edward Zwick keeps the pace going admirably, aided by Steven Rosenblum's deft editing. I'm less sure about the overall look of the film, and uneasy about its shift to a finale of patriotic triumphalism that it had managed so hard to avoid - even to the extent of satire - up to that point.

Unmissable for Maguire.
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3/10
What an okay movie!
reopentainment4 October 2015
This movie is good if: - you lived through this episode of American history - you read about the movie online - you like Chess

This movie is not good if: - you're inviting people for a night out

It was neat and the acting was great -- me and my friends aren't big on chess so the only way we knew what was happening was through their facial expressions. Unfortunately, this movie is so both fastpaced and slow that it manages to skip through any suspense or depth and yet really drags on at parts. For people who just want to enjoy a movie, Pawn Sacrifice is more confusing than Harry Potter 4. You don't get to explore the historical context within the movie nor does it really dive into Fischer's psychosis.

The movie really moved me however as I understood the depressing mood of the US at the time and the tension that any contact with the Russians could result in nuclear war. But for anyone who doesn't know these things, it looks like a magical world where people are holding their breath waiting for two people to make their moves on a chess board. This isn't eisenhower and Lenin playing, nor is it Obama and Putin. Although it does mention the idea of ideological struggle between capitalism and communism, it doesn't persist long enough for uninformed viewers to understand the importance of proxy matches between east and west. If you're young or fell asleep during history class (especially for those in an international audience from nations not really impacted by the cold war ... aka 98% of countries) you're continuously confused about why the focus on chess, as artful a game as it is.

Anyway, it was a good movie and decently directed for what they were given (110 mins running time I believe) and my angst is really against reviewers on IMDb that insist the film makes chess seem exciting. No it doesn't and for those who aren't waiting for this poor young man from Brooklyn to grow up to be a sensational hero for the US, his personal foibles and struggles don't really resonate.

In fact I guess I can somewhat agree with the guy that was rooting for the Russians. You're left with a feeling that Bobby's victory against the Russians was a fluke and that Bobby won by inadvertently playing mind games more than actual chess skill.
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