Pawn Sacrifice

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Pawn Sacrifice
Pawn Sacrifice Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Zwick
Produced by
Screenplay bySteven Knight
Story by
Starring
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyBradford Young
Edited bySteven Rosenblum
Production
companies
Distributed byBleecker Street
Release date
  • September 11, 2014 (2014-09-11) (TIFF)
  • September 16, 2015 (2015-09-16) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$19 million[3]
Box office$5.6 million[4]

Pawn Sacrifice is a 2014 American biographical drama film. It is based on the true story of Bobby Fischer's challenge against top Soviet chess grandmasters during the Cold War and culminating in the World Chess Championship 1972 match versus Boris Spassky in Reykjavík, Iceland. It was directed by Edward Zwick and written by Steven Knight. The film stars Tobey Maguire as Bobby Fischer, Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky, Lily Rabe as Joan Fischer, and Peter Sarsgaard as William Lombardy. It was released in the United States on September 16, 2015.[5]

Plot[edit]

In 1972, Bobby Fischer tears apart his hotel room in a paranoid delusional state, believing he is being spied upon by the Soviet KGB.

The film flashes back to 1951 Brooklyn, where Fischer's mother, a Soviet Jewish immigrant, explains to 8-year-old Bobby that the FBI has her under surveillance because she supports Marxist revolution in the U.S. She coaches Bobby on what to say to the FBI if he is ever approached.

Bobby immerses himself in chess and becomes an expert player. Despite her worries that chess is becoming an obsession, his mother takes him to an adult chess club, where he impresses the resident chess master and is accepted as a student. Bobby enters the world of professional chess championships and soon becomes the youngest grandmaster ever.

Bobby's hatred of distractions leads to frequent tantrums. He enters a team tournament in Varna, Bulgaria, where he realizes that Soviet grandmasters are deliberately drawing games with the collusion of the World Chess Federation. Erupting in a rant that this system makes it impossible for a non-Soviet player to win the championship, Bobby quits the tournament and gives up chess.

When Bobby returns to the U.S., lawyer Paul Marshall offers to help him modify the tournament rules, working pro bono to give Fischer a fair chance to win future tournaments. Fischer re-enters professional chess, and selects Father William Lombardy, a former World Junior Chess Champion and Roman Catholic priest, as his second. Lombardy struggles to calm Bobby's rock-star behavior and impossible demands.

As his demands are accepted, Bobby overcomes most of the grandmasters across the world and nears the world championship, becoming a hero to the American public. At the height of the Cold War, Soviet domination of the World Chess Championship is being exploited for propaganda as proof that the Communist system is superior to American democracy. U.S. President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger closely monitor and encourage Bobby's progress.

Privately, Lombardy tells Marshall that excessive focus on chess strategy has destroyed the sanity of the game's greatest players, citing the mental breakdown and suicide of 19th-century American grandmaster Paul Morphy.

During a tournament in Santa Monica, California, Bobby loses to Soviet grandmaster Boris Spassky, the world champion. The next morning, an enraged Bobby approaches and berates Spassky on the beach.

As he pursues the world championship, the pressure drives Bobby into paranoia and delusional psychosis. Meeting with Marshall, Bobby's sister Joan quotes from her brother's letters about how the Communists are colluding with International Jewry in order to destroy him. Joan explains that Bobby believes this despite being Jewish himself, and pleads with Marshall to arrange for Bobby to receive psychiatric help. Marshall is dismissive, but as Bobby's breakdown escalates, he suggests to Lombardy that Bobby needs therapy and medication, which Lombardy rebuffs.

Reporters and fans from around the world assemble at Reykjavík, Iceland, to witness the historic World Chess Championship 1972 match between Bobby and Spassky. Bobby loses the first game and fails to appear for the second, losing it by forfeit. Bobby is easily distracted by small noises from the audience, rolling cameras, and the hard sound of the chessboard, which leads him to make extreme demands for silence and fewer distractions, which could cause another forfeit. Spassky, insulted by the possibility of maintaining his title by forfeit, orders the Soviet entourage to accede to Bobby's demands.

Bobby wins the third game by unconventional tactics. Game four is a draw, but Bobby wins game five after Spassky himself begins showing signs of paranoia. Experts speculate that the next game will determine the outcome of the tournament. In game six, Bobby uses an opening he has never played before, surprising the audience. His inspired play amazes Spassky, who resigns and leads a standing ovation of Bobby's victory.

A postscript reveals that Bobby Fischer went on to win the match and that his sixth game against Spassky is still considered the greatest chess game ever played. However, his delusions worsened, and he went on to forfeit his title and died in 2008 as a fugitive from U.S. prosecution.

Cast[edit]

Title meaning[edit]

Director Edward Zwick explained the meaning of the film's title: "You have Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon calling Bobby Fischer; you have Brezhnev and the KGB agents following Boris Spassky. Both of these men were pawns of their nations."[6]

Production[edit]

Principal photography began in early October 2013 in Reykjavík, Iceland.[7] In mid-October, the remaining 41 days of shooting began in Montreal, Canada, wrapping in Los Angeles on December 11, 2013.[8]

Release[edit]

The film had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2014.[9] On September 10, 2014, Bleecker Street acquired the U.S. distribution rights to the film, the company's first acquisition.[10] The film was originally set to be released in the United States on September 18, 2015; however, it was pushed up to September 16,[5][11] with wide releases in both America and Canada on September 25, 2015.[12]

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Pawn Sacrifice has grossed $2.4 million in North America and $3.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $5.6 million,[4] and sales of its DVD/Blu-ray releases have cashed $1.1 milion,[13] against a budget of $19 million.[3]

The film grossed $1 million in the opening weekend of its wide release, finishing 12th at the box office.[4]

Critical response[edit]

Pawn Sacrifice received generally positive reviews, with many critics praising Maguire's performance. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 71%, based on 108 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Anchored by a sensitive performance from Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice adds another solidly gripping drama to the list of films inspired by chess wiz Bobby Fischer."[14] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 65 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15]

Spassky himself has called the film "weak" and that it has "no intrigue"; he noted that the film misrepresents how and why he agreed to continue the match after Fischer failed to show up for the second game.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (March 28, 2013). "Tobey Maguire's Material Pictures Expands with New Backer Onboard". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  2. ^ "PAWN SACRIFICE (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. September 3, 2015. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Dondis, Harold; Chase, Chris (September 27, 2015). "Chess Notes". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 2, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Pawn Sacrifice (2015)". Box Office Mojo. Amazon. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (February 4, 2015). "'I'll See You In My Dreams' and 'Pawn Sacrifice' Get Release Dates". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  6. ^ McCullough, Susannah Bragg (September 21, 2015). "How does the title of "Pawn Sacrifice" highlight the intense political stakes underlying 1970s chess?". screenprism.com. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  7. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (October 23, 2013). "'Boardwalk Empire's' Michael Stuhlbarg Joins Bobby Fischer Chess Pic 'Pawn Sacrifice' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  8. ^ Kay, Jeremy (October 23, 2013). "Shooting underway on Pawn Sacrifice". Screendaily.com. Retrieved May 30, 2015.
  9. ^ Punter, Jennie (July 22, 2014). "Toronto Film Festival Lineup Includes Denzel Washington's 'Equalizer,' Kate Winslet's 'A Little Chaos'". Variety. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  10. ^ Bernstein, Paula (September 11, 2014). "Bleecker Street Acquires Ed Zwick's Bobby Fischer Biopic". Indiewire. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  11. ^ "Pawn Sacrifice". apple.com.
  12. ^ "Pawn Sacrifice". September 20, 2015.
  13. ^ "Pawn Sacrifice (2015)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  14. ^ "Pawn Sacrifice (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  15. ^ "Pawn Sacrifice Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  16. ^ McGourty, Colin (March 4, 2016). "Boris Spassky: "I'm waging a war"". chess24.com. Retrieved October 25, 2018.

External links[edit]