Greetings Loved Ones! Liu is the Name, And views Are My Game.
Hey kids, did you know that, once upon a time, people actually cared about chess? No, I’m not shitting you! Back in the 1970s, when America was determined to beat the Soviets at everything, there was a real surge in chess’s popularity. That was because a young man named Bobby Fischer managed to beat the Russian Grand Master, Boris Spassky, and, in so doing, gave the American people something to brag about. The story of how he did this, as well as how he coped with his inner demons, is what is told in Pawn Sacrifice, the latest film from director Edward Zwick, and star Tobey Maguire.
And it’s terrible. Yeah. I wish I could be more subtle, more nuanced, but that’s the fact of the matter. It’s terrible.
Now, before any of you say anything, I want to be clear that there are aspects of this film that work. The costumes, sets, and especially the fake news broadcasts, are all beautiful, and help to bring the film’s time period to life. The news broadcasts are actually what I loved most about this movie. They give you a real sense for how big a deal this match was, as well as what technology was like back then. On top of this, Tobey Maguire is truly hypnotic as the unhinged chess champ, Bobby Fischer.
But, alas, none of this is enough to save this film from its weak script. To put it bluntly, this movie just isn’t interesting. And it’s not because it’s about people playing chess. The End Of The Tour and The Social Network are movies about writers and website designers, neither of whom are the most exciting groups in the world. And yet, these films still managed to be critical and commercial successes. Why? Because they had fleshed out characters and engaging narratives. Pawn Sacrifice has an interesting premise, but completely flat characters. Every line of dialogue they speak is either exposition, or stuff that will move the plot forward. We’re never given a scene where someone simply sits down, and talks to someone else about food, or art, or anything unrelated to politics and chess. Because of this, they never feel like real people, and we never feel any urge to care about them. Seriously! About 40 minutes into this movie, I completely tuned out. I pulled out my i-pad, and watched the music video for Rania’s “Dr Feel Good.” I was more concerned with why a K-pop girl group was wearing dominatrix outfits than I was with the movie I was watching. That’s not good. Movies, first and foremost, are supposed to entertain you. They’re supposed to suck you in. Pawn Sacrifice does neither of those things. It fails to do the very thing that it was created for. On top of this, as much as I like the news broadcasts, they also kind of take something away from the narrative. They tell us how we’re supposed to think and feel. They tell us how big a deal the Cold War is. They tell us how people in the world are responding to Bobby Fischer. We never actually see people living in fear of nuclear annihilation, or espionage. Because of this, we’re kept at a perpetual distance from the story and its characters. They’re not real to us, because we’re never allowed to see or feel what they feel, only hear it. A good film will SHOW you the climate and environment of its story. A perfect example of this is the first few minutes of the movie Hunger. Set during the Troubles in Ireland, the film’s opening scenes have absolutely no dialogue, and yet, we learn so much from them. We see a man looking under his car, and over his shoulder. We see the cuts and bruises on his knuckles when he goes to take a smoke. We gather from this that he lives in a world of constant and unpredictable danger, and that his daily routine is fraught with violence. It’s so obvious to us, and yet, we’re not told a single word. That kind of subtlety doesn’t exist in Pawn Sacrifice, and the movie really suffers as a result.
Guys, I’m not going to waste any more of your time. Pawn Sacrifice is a boring, poorly written, overly obvious piece of junk. 5 out of 10. Don’t watch it.