Rafael Jovine’s review published on Letterboxd:
The directorial debut by the great screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, The Night Of, Moneyball) and holding a whooping 100% Rotten Tomatoes score, needless to say this movie was pretty hyped for me.
And starting with the positives, most of the performances are really good. After the whole Baseball aspect was introduced, I legit thought this would be a movie where this kid would have to battle with his father to get the chance to play chess or something, so when the father himself (well played by David Rossi himself, Joe Mantegna), I genuinely didn’t expect that twist. That being said, the movie doesn’t shy away about the fact Chess is a very demanding game and rather than making the whole thing look sexy as Queen’s Gamblit (which this movie shares a connection), it does a nice job focusing on the pressure and how many of these little prodigies loose so much of their lives because of their game. Though, it also shows that can be remedied. Sir Ben Kingsley as this real iconic grandmaster teacher, did a good job playing this somewhat ruthless character to a point it reminded me to a much friendly version of JK Simmons on Whiplash. Fishburne was cool as this laidback, street-wise man that poses some trouble between our lead kid Joshua and Kingsley’s character. There’s also some very good cinematography and score.
Unfortunately, the movie feels very long and I never felt the stakes. Also it didn’t help I had my mom snoring through most of the first two acts. Max Pomeranc was very good, though for most of the movie it felt like he was sleeping through the film and he missed any real spark that energized the movie like, say, Anya Taylor Joy or Tobey Maguire on their respective chess related projects.
All in all, while its very endearing and cute and is far from being really bad, this movie unfortunately fails, at least for me, to make the Chess game any exciting for most of its runtime. I still would give it a watch.
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