Pawn Sacrifice

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg, Robin Weigert
Directed By: Edward Zwick

Every year there are some terrific Oscar bait films and performances that for one reason or another fall to the wayside. I know why Pawn Sacrifice isn’t making year-end lists. For me, the film gets really good and then just ends. Maguire was shining like a bright fucking star the entire film, in every paranoid moment. Then, when Bobby Fischer is about to get his most paranoid, the film ends. Honestly, a terrific film but it felt unfinished because of the choice to end where it did. The film was mostly about the unraveling of Bobby Fischer, and then when we get to the time when he actually unravels, we get the dreaded “words over pictures” sequence right before the end. You know, the one that tells you that the characters you love went on to do great things, or died a year later, or whatever? That section. It kills the movie.

10 more minutes. You could have had just 10 minutes of the downward spiral featuring Tobey Maguire, and it would have sent Maguire over the top and back into the Best Actor race. You took the meatiest section of Bobby Fischer’s life and montaged it. Even with that though, I loved the movie right up until the end. Maguire’s performance, and the supporting ones from Sarsgarrd and Schreiber carry the film. It’s actually good storytelling, but I just can’t get past the choice to end the movie after that tournament. I get that it was the crowning achievement for Fischer, but the film never felt about that. It felt about “what happens after”. Even Sarsgaard’s character muses that Fischer is truly afraid of what happens if he wins. Well, the movie ends. That’s what happens.

You almost had a masterpiece. You set us up for the “what happens to Bobby Fischer if he wins”, and we don’t actually get to see it. We instead just see images and a description of what happened. Archive footage. Come on now.

FINAL GRADE: B+
(could have been a solid A)

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