Tobey Maguire Masters More Than Chess as Bobby Fischer

Critics give the actor thumbs up all around
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 25, 2015 10:59 AM CDT

In Pawn Sacrifice, Tobey Maguire plays troubled American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer, who will eventually battle Russian chess master Boris Spassky at the 1972 World Chess Championship. But can any actor really get inside Fischer's head? Here's what critics are saying:

  • Richard Roeper sums up the film as "Rocky III at the chess table—if Rocky were an increasingly paranoid loner." Overall, it's "enthralling," "captures the essence of Fischer's mad genius, perfectly recreates the tenor of the times AND works as a legit sports movie about the great game of chess," he writes at the Chicago Sun-Times. Plus, "Maguire gives the performance of his career," and "Liev Schreiber deserves best supporting actor consideration" for his turn as Spassky.
  • The film "doesn't offer much in the way of surprises or insight," and "never fully captures how Fischer became Fischer," but "there's much to recommend it anyway," writes Keith Phipps at Uproxx. "It's shot handsomely and builds in intensity." There are also "some sharp lines from screenwriter Steven Knight and first-rate performances." Schreiber is good, but Maguire steals the show.

  • Jesse Hassenger at AV Club says "it's a fitfully entertaining and well-acted movie" but "doesn’t quite come together." Though "one of the film's strongest, most potentially surprising pleasures is the sight of Maguire playing both with and against his usual type," Hassenger says the film "struggles to wring much drama" out of a 24-game chess series. The lengthy postscript also seems a bit off.
  • Joe Neumaier admits the movie isn't perfect. "The overall intelligence and strategy of the story is occasionally disturbed by moments of obvious movie bluster or emotional trickery. But that's easy to forgive," he writes at the New York Daily News. "The challenge of Pawn Sacrifice was to capture the colorful Cold War '70s, the inner strategies of one man's paranoid mind, and make chess cinematic. Check, and mate." This is Maguire's "best performance since Wonder Boys."
(Is this 12-year-old the next Bobby Fischer?)

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