Cold War tactics
America vs. Russia all over again
In Pawn Sacrifice, director Edward Zwick and writer Steven Knight treat the 1970s saga of chess champions Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky as a kind of retrospective Cold War parable. The American Fischer (Tobey Maguire) gets the most attention, but the Russian Spassky (Liev Schreiber) is portrayed as similarly obsessive and no less defiant toward political manipulations. Much is made of Fischer as a child prodigy whose upbringing among leftist immigrants in 1950s Brooklyn makes him into an exuberantly paranoid individualist, but the fine-tuned performances of Maguire and Schreiber are slanted more toward socio-political issues than to any deep-dish psychology.
Michael Stuhlbarg (as Fischer’s government minder), Peter Sarsgaard (as a priest and chess master), Lily Rabe (as Fischer’s sister, Joan) and Robin Weigert (as his mother) slide a helpful assortment of emotional complexities into the proceedings.