Tobey Maguire plays chess legend Bobby Fischer, the working class New Yorker who took on the USSR at the height of the Cold War, back when chess was cool before Deep Blue ruined it for everyone. Think Rocky IV with chess.
I went into this not knowing much about Fischer, having only heard about him en passant. But while the prospect of Toby Maguire playing chess for two hours may not sound that enticing, it manages to be remarkably tense, so I was never board.
Maguire excels in the lead role as the troubled genius who is used by those around him. In addition to battling his opponent, the Russian number one Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), Fischer also has to contend with the stresses of becoming world famous, the people who seek to use him for their political ends and his own severe mental health problems.
The game scenes are well handled for maximum drama and suspense, keeping the requirement for understanding of chess strategy in check. Through skilled direction by Edward Zwick the significance of the matches is displayed through their historical context, with genuine newsreel footage of the chess hysteria that captivated the world.
The film does an excellent job of capturing Fischer’s remarkable and troubled life, and making chess more exciting than boxing. Very imchessive.