HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Pawn Sacrifice
HTS Overall Score:80
The cold war was one of the most defining “wars” of our times. It was almost casualty free from a soldier’s point of view and it was more of an economic and sociological gave of tug a war, vying for superiority in the world of politics rather than an out and out war like Vietnam or WWII. While many fronts of the war were fought with lawyers, politicians and the like, others were fought in the public’s eye, in an effort to sway sympathy towards their plight. Now wrap in the crazed and maniacal world of Bobby Fischer, who is probably the world’s greatest chess player to date. Unfortunately for Bobby he suffered from Schizoid type personalities that plagued the famous chess player till he died in 2008. “Pawn Sacrifice” retells the story of the great chess player, from childhood up till his great world championship win during the height of the cold war, in both a heartfelt and simply disturbing way.
As a child, Bobby Fischer was a bit “odd”. He was obsessive and quirky, taking up hobbies that seemed abnormal for a boy his age. Teaching himself chess at a very young age he caught the eye of Carmine Nigro (Conrad Pla), one of the top chess players in New York City. Soon the boy from Brooklyn (aren’t they all?) was beating chess masters all over the nation. His defining moment as a young man was going up against the best players in the world, the Russians, and seeing them play dirty. Furious at the chess world he publically decries them and quits chess forever. This catches the eye of lawyer Paul Marshall (Paul Stuhlbarg) who offers to publically take him to the top and fight his cause. Agreeing to those terms, Bobby (Tobey Maguire) once again dedicates his life to the world of chess along with the help of chess wizard, Father Bill Lombardy (Peter Sarsgaard).
While Bobby is grinding towards the inevitable, we see that things are not always as they seem. Paul Marshall has a few chinks in his armor and while it’s never spoken outright, it’s very obvious that his affiliations are with the U.S government. A government desperate to have Bobby Fischer beat the Russians as one more step fighting communism in the public arena. We all know that to the Russians this is not a game, but a push to show Soviet domination across the world and the U.S. is not about to let that push go unnoticed. However, Bobby himself is not exactly “normal”. His childhood quirks turn into full blown mental illness as he falls prey to paranoia, fear, hearing voices, and listening to audio tapes describing the world of the illuminati and complete and total domination of the world by the Jewish archetypes. While this would normally put someone in a mental hospital, the powers that be let it slide, as changing one thing in Bobby’s personality could very well jeopardize the complete and utter genius of his game.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=61849[/img]Bobby’s mind may be a flutter with eccentricities, but he is still a man at the core of it and all that man is dominated by his base desires. His desires to win, to conquer and most important of all, that sense of fear. Bobby seeps Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), the best that the Russians have to offer, as his biggest hurdle in life. The one man that has robbed him of his championship title all these years. Nothing else matters. His life, his relationships even that his own “friend” is working for the U.S. government and is goading him on. All that matters is one thing… Chess.
Your first reaction is to roll your eyes and wonder how chess could make for an exciting movie. I mean, didn’t we all have that joke about the “nerds” in chess club? Well, Edward Zwick has done a magnificent job at balancing the simple yet complex world of chess with a tale of a man’s spiral into madness. In fact it plays out more like a psychological thriller as we watch Bobby’s mental state fluctuate and deteriorate over the course of the movie. You’re sitting at the edge of your chair wondering just what Bobby is going to do next. Is he going to snap entirely and just walk away? Or is he going to throw things against the wall and go paranoid. We all know the outcome of the match. It’s considered the largest chess game in history, but it’s simply fascinating to watch the tension and fear on both men’s faces as they play the game.
I hate Tobey Maguire and I make no bones about it. He’s usually a whiny, sniveling brat and I have to suppress the urge to punch him in the face every time I see him on screen. I’ve had this desire ever since I watched him a young man in “Cider House Rules”, and I fully intended to hate his performance her. However, I was shocked and amazed to find myself LOVING his portrayal of Bobby Fischer. He plays a character so unhinged, and so on the edge of his sanity that he was absolutely mesmerizing. The facial tics, the screaming, the loose cannon mentality. It all adds up to someone who’s barely in control of his mental faculties, but he carries with him an intensity and ferocity to the role that makes it hard to tear your eyes away from him. In fact, while it may not be a high profile role, this is very simply the highlight of Tobey’s career in my opinion.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content and historical smoking
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=61857[/img]“Pawn Sacrifice” comes to blu-ray with stellar looking transfer that emphasizes razor sharp detail with the now typical gold and blue looking color grading. The first portion of the film is heavily graded with gold and yellow tones that come with a very warm looking color palette, which opens up to a more sterile and blue tinged look when we move over to adult Bobby. Fine detail is amazing throughout, showing us all kinds of little intricacies in the picture, from Liev Schreiber’s mole on his face down to the individual fibers and stain’s on Bobby’s sports jacket. Blacks are deep and inky, with plenty of shadow detail to go around. I don’t see any signs of crush, washed out blacks, digital artifacting or other compression related issues. And while Universal was once noted for the use of DNR on its catalog titles, their day and date titles are strictly left clean as whistle, with “Pawn Sacrifice” being a stellar example of a modern transfer.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=61865[/img]The English 5.1 DTS-HD MA track ensconced within the disc is a superb example of a great track that really doesn’t have to stand out to be effective. By that I mean there is nothing spectacularly home theater shaking about it, but if you listen to the finely tuned nuances in the film it comes alive. The LFE is there in spades when necessary, but it doesn’t call attention to itself or make itself known except surreptitiously entwining itself in with the score or adding some weight to physical impacts. Dialog is clean and clear of any audible distortions, blending smoothly with the mains in the front soundstage. Surrounds seem to be light on the surface, but if you listen carefully the little scrapes of a chess piece along the board, or the soft rustle of fabric on skin each make a unique and completely accurate tone to be picked up one by one.
• Bobby Fischer, The Cold War and the Match of the Century
While the base premise of the movie is the fight against the cold war and the greatest chess matchup in history (game six is widely considered to be THE best chess match in world history), they both play second fiddle to the eccentric Bobby Fischer. A man dominated by mental illnesses, but one whose mastery of his mind and chess itself is legendary (despite its obvious sadness). Watching Tobey Maguire play out the roll is absolutely breathtaking and is easily one of my favorite personal performances of the year. The disc is given excellent technical specs, and despite the apparent lack of any substantial extras, the disc is still VERY much worth checking out. Watch it.
Starring: Liev Schreiber, Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by: Edward Zwick
Written by: Steven Knight (Screenplay), Stephen J. Revele (Story)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 116 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 22nd, 2015
Buy Pawn Sacrifice Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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