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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Pawn Sacrifice movie rating: red light

Pawn Sacrifice red light

Yawningly dull Cold War chess drama squanders the charms and talents of Tobey Maguire (as Bobby Fischer) and Liev Schreiber (as Boris Spassky). Desperately wants competitive chess to be seen as exciting, inspiring, and metaphoric in all sorts of directions, from the political to the personal, and fails miserably.
I’m “biast” (pro): like the cast

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

(My Ratings posts are a quick way for me to share my reaction to a film. This post will be updated if/when I ever write a review. Feel free to discuss the movie in depth in the comments section.)


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Pawn Sacrifice for its representation of girls and women.


red light 2 stars

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Pawn Sacrifice (2015)
US/Can release: Sep 16 2015

MPAA: rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content and historical smoking
BBFC: rated 12A (infrequent strong language, moderate sex references)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • I liked this movie more than you did because of the interesting way it approached point of view. Most of the movie is told from Fisher’s point of view. It feels kind of hyper-under-the-surface and paranoid. A few scenes are told from Spassky’s point of view and it feels like a whole different movie as he’s the master of calm. I’d probably give it more of a 3 1/2-4 stars. This is interesting if you care about ’60s/’70s US-USSR relations or chess. Otherwise, I agree, it’s probably boring.

  • I agree that ’60s/’70s US-USSR relations can be interesting — Bridge of Spies did a good job of making it fairly exciting. But if there’s a way to make chess interesting, this movie did not find it. It even makes a note of pointing out that one of the Fischer-Spassky matches here is considered the most important ever, and there is literally nothing in the movie that supports that or makes us understand why or how this is the case.

  • Sabretruthtiger

    A review bereft of any intellectual content or critical analysis. One only needs to glance at your “#WhereAreTheWomen rating of Pawn Sacrifice for its representation of girls and women.” tag to see your feminist bias.

    In answer to your apparent unspoken rage at the preponderance of male characters in the chess world, men are simply better at chess and as per Bateman’s Principle there being more diversity amongst the male population with regards to many traits, intelligence being a prime one, the more one goes to either end of the IQ spectrum the more men there are than women. This means that the vast majority of geniuses are men. Add men’s visuo-spatial advantage and their tendency to excel at linear focused calculation and you have a male-dominated chess world.
    I find you’re being rather sexist toward women with your dismissal of the characters of Regina his mother and his sister. They were important roles and while Regina could’ve been portrayed better as she was quite an intelligent woman herself they were secondary to his chess world which consumed him.

  • Sabretruthtiger

    Game 6 was considered the greatest game ever and most of the audience including yourself would not understand why as it pertains to the chess moves played and would be pointless trying to expand on that when game with the Bh2 blunder was much more plot-dependent.

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