Movie Review: Pawn Sacrifice

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A movie about playing chess sounds really boring. But a movie about a crazy man playing chess – now that’s Oscar material! But why? What’s so special about this movie? Why do many people find themselves connecting with it? Because deep down, everyone knows that, like Bobby Fischer, we are all a bit crazy too.

Tobey Maguire’s accessible portrayal of Bobby Fischer helps us see our human condition more clearly: each one of us is both uniquely gifted and profoundly broken. Watching his facial expressions go from lucid to lunatic and back again is worth the price of a theater ticket. Hearing his voice go from reserved confidence to maniacally unrestrained is enough to keep you up at night. And remembering that this cinematic portrayal is based upon the real life experiences of a man whose mental illness ultimately destroyed him…that could make you weep, if you will let it. In our hearts we know that we’ve all got things like that inside of us too.

Christians with biblical and theological categories for the imago dei and total depravity should find this movie a gold-mine for starting gospel-centered conversations. One example: The scene where Fischer’s second (the priest) knowingly states that Fischer is afraid of what happens if he wins.

It’s good to celebrate the successes of Bobby Fischer. And it’s wise to learn from his failures too. Bobby Fischer’s time has come and gone. And ours is passing just as quickly. Is there any hope for proud, crazy, brilliant, fragile and lonely people like Bobby Fischer? Yes, the Bible gives us real reasons to hope. But the theme of redemption was missing in Pawn Sacrifice. May that not be said of our lives.

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