The story of Bobby Fischer is as sad as it is mesmerizing. He was a very troubled man who saw chess as a sort of comfort. He was arguably the best chess player of all time, as it was the only thing he actually cared about. Pawn Sacrifice does a phenomenal job of showing Fischer's arrogance, overconfidence, and complete lack of respect for anybody but himself. It also conveys his serious mental problems, including paranoia and other major psychological issues that plagued him until his death in 2008. This film is every bit about the man as it is about his greatest game.
Tobey Maguire delivers his best performance in years as Fischer. While he was a genuinely unlikable person, it was fun to watch his incredible talent at the chessboard. His match against Russian world champion Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber in another great performance) turned him into an international celebrity and only increased his sense of paranoia. It's difficult to watch him treat his only friends like garbage and become increasingly convinced that the Russians are trying to kill him. Bobby Fischer was a complicated man, whose motivations for becoming the world chess champion were known only to himself.
This film is a simple but powerful retelling of one of the United States's greatest Cold War victories against the Soviet Union. It is the tale of a disturbed man's struggle to win against himself in a game that consumed every moment of his life. Even if you hate the film, I guarantee that by the end of it, you'll want to track down a chessboard and see if you have what it takes to be a champion.