Pawn Sacrifice

Rated 3.0

Director Ed Zwick and writer Steven Knight take us back to 1972, when the chess match between American challenger Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) and Soviet world champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) transfixed the world and provided a bloodless battlefield in the Cold War. Maguire gives us Fischer's fiery paranoid passion without his vulpine stare; it makes him more sympathetic than the real Fischer ever was. Meanwhile, Knight and Zwick raise provocative questions about the politics and people involved (including Michael Stuhlbarg and Peter Skarsgaard as Fischer's support team), then decline to answer them; it's ironic that a player as unconventional as Fischer should inspire such a thoroughly conventional biopic. Still, plain professionalism has its upside, if less spectacularly so than genius. J.L.