Some actors get stuck in the image of their first hit performance: Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan, or Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. Each of these actors has taken strides to separate themselves from those characters, but some haven’t succeeded in that endeavor. Tobey Maguire, however, may have just accomplished that in 2015’s Pawn Sacrifice where he portrays Bobby Fischer, the genius chess player that captured worldwide attention in the 1970s.
As a small kid from Chicago, Bobby teaches himself to play chess. From a young age, the audiences sees how sensitive Bobby is to sound, an issue that develops further throughout the film. It’s strange that his “condition” isn’t explained a bit further, but it makes sense as he loses his mind. Soon, his hobby turns into an obsession, leading to local matches and competitions. At the time, Bobby became the youngest chess grandmaster and candidate for the World Championship. Pitted against the best players in the world, namely the Russians, Bobby is faced with crippling paranoia and a call to play his part in the Cold War era.
Pawn Sacrifice is a mental rollercoaster in which the audience witnesses the ups and downs of Bobby Fischer’s stardom. Bobby’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic over the course of the film, and his paranoia is centered on anti-Semitic beliefs and Russian spies.
The film suggests that genius and madness go hand-in-hand, a theme that Tobey Maguire captures in his performance. Alongside Maguire, Liev Schreiber portrays the confident Boris Spassky, the famous Russian chess player that serves as Bobby’s rival. He’s everything that Bobby is not: suave, confident, composed, and champion. It isn’t until the final act of the film (spoiler-ish) that the audience sees a different side of Spassky. Like Bobby, he, too, displays signs of paranoia.
For an indie type of film, Pawn Sacrifice surprised me with its captivating acting and intense chess games. Wow, I never thought I would say that. For someone like me, who knows nothing about the game of chess, the film does a great job of grabbing your attention and keeping it focused on the unraveling psyche of Bobby Fischer. Though, Maguire isn’t the only powerhouse actor in Pawn Sacrifice. Peter Sarsgaard, recently seen in Black Mass, plays Bobby’s coach and confidante Father Bill Lombardy. Lily Rabe (American Horror Story) also stars as Bobby’s sister, Joan Fischer.
Did you see Pawn Sacrifice? What did you think? What is your favorite Tobey McGuire movie? Let us know in the comments below.