Dec 192015
 

Pawn Sacrifice isn’t one of Zwick’s best movies, which for me is still The Last Samurai, but it’s still an adequate drama with strong performances by Tobey Maguire and Michael Stuhlbarg, the latter of whom deserves some award recognition. The Blu-ray release offers good video and audio transfers but falls far short in the bonus material department.

 

 

Pawn Sacrifice
(2015)


REVIEW NAVIGATION

The Movie
| Special Features | Video Quality | Audio Quality | Overall

Genre(s): Drama
Universal | PG13 – 116 min. – $34.98 | December 22, 2015

MOVIE INFO:
Directed by:
Edward Zwick
Writer(s): Stephen J. Rivele & Christopher Wilkinson and Steven Knight (story), Steven Knight (screenplay)
Cast: Tobey Maguire, Peter Sarsgaard, Liev Schreiber, Michael Stuhlbarg
DISC INFO:
Features:
Featurette
Digital Copy: Yes
Number of Discs: 1
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 32.9 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C


** Click Here to Purchase Pawn Sacrifice on Blu-ray from Amazon.com
**


THE MOVIE – 3.0/5

“Billion people around the world watching two guys play chess… World War III on a chess board.”

The story of Bobby Fischer is nothing new with his story being told in the 2011 documentary, Bobby Fischer Against the World and now with Pawn Sacrifice, the film attempts to break down the man psychologically, an interesting view of his mental illness and paranoia which is the focal point with the chess matches, at least through the first 2/3rds, taking a backseat.

The film follows a young Bobby Fischer from his early childhood as he discovers his passion for the game of chess, learning from a chess master and through his teen years beating everybody in his path, eventually becoming the youngest grandmaster at only the age of 15.

In his early adulthood, Bobby (TOBEY MAGUIRE), with the prodding of the U.S. government eager for a PR win against Russia in its Cold War battle after suffering losses with China and Vietnam, wants to become the greatest chess player in the world ultimately to face off against Soviet Boris Spassky (LIVE SCHREIBER), the World Chess Champion. Helping Bobby on his journey, a world-wind tour of tournaments, is sports agent Paul Marshall (MICHAEL STUHLBARG) and Father Bill Lombardy (PETER SARSGAARD) serving as Fischer’s chess coach and confidant.

With the stakes high, and Fischer’s behavior, not to mention demands, especially bizarre, his first match with Spassky in California, done off-screen, is a loss making Fischer ever more obsessed and a mental wreck for which Marshall and Lombardy attempt to coral and contain in spite of concerns by Fischer’s sister (LILY RABE).

Pawn Sacrifice is much more of a character study but it does manage, under the direction of Edward Zwick, give some suspense to the game of chess even though, if you’re a student of history (mainly US/Russian relations), know the outcome. The movie also is a great vehicle for Tobey Maguire who also served as a producer, reminding you he does have depth as an actor as he has a few great scenes that isn’t over-the-top and gives respect to the challenges of the character, primarily his paranoia.

There is one other standout and it isn’t Peter Sarsgaard or Liev Schreiber, neither of whom aren’t bad but their characters only gets a couple key scenes. Instead Michael Stuhlbarg (“Boardwalk Empire”) as Fischer’s agent/manager: Stuhlbarg has a few great scenes with Maguire and I’d argue was deserving of a supporting actor recognition, however at this stage isn’t going to happen. He plays the role even handedly both as a concerned party seeing the unraveling of Fischer into madness to an unscrupulous manipulator more concerned for patriotism than Fischer’s health.

However, for all that’s good about Pawn Sacrifice from the performances to the production and costume designs which were impressive, it did lack a certain emotion or soul. Never was there a point when I was fully engrossed with the story, or characters for that matter, and was admiring different elements but not the movie as a whole. Even the chess match in the third act, as well shot as a chess match can be, wasn’t wholly satisfying nor as the fate of Fischer whose life story is indeed tragic both with how he was treated but the decline of his mental facilities in spite of being a chess master, though some might argue he couldn’t have one without the other.

In the end, Pawn Sacrifice may not be the most memorable drama to come around but the performances are strong and the technical aspects like the production design was impressive enough to at least make this a worthwhile rental.

 

SPECIAL FEATURES – 1.0/5

This release comes with a matted slip cover. Inside is a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.

Bobby Fischer, the Cold War and the Match of the Century (3:17; HD) is a sadly short, promotional featurette with some canned interview sound-bites.

 


VIDEO – 4.5/5

Pawn Sacrifice makes a double attack upon Blu-ray presented with a 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and given a 1080p high-definition transfer. The picture quality certainly goes onto the warmer side of the spectrum yet detail looks good and there’s a certain natural film grain or noise which isn’t overabundant or obtrusive. There were no apparent artifacts or aliasing making for a fine looking transfer.

 

AUDIO – 4.0/5

The movie comes with a standard but efficient DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Considering this is a straight-up drama, with a couple tense moments during Fischer’s bouts of paranoia, the audio is limited. Dialogue levels do sound crisp and clear throughout and James Newton Howard’s score, not to mention some choice music of the 1950s and 60s, make good use of the front and rear channels.

 



OVERALL – 3.0/5

Overall, Pawn Sacrifice isn’t one of Zwick’s best movies, which for me is still The Last Samurai, but it’s still an adequate drama with strong performances by Tobey Maguire and Michael Stuhlbarg, the latter of whom deserves some award recognition. The Blu-ray release offers good video and audio transfers but falls far short in the bonus material department.

 

 

Brian Oliver a.k.a. The Movieman
Published: 12/19/2015

 

 

 

 

Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.

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