The name “Bobby Fischer” is synonymous with high-level chess, even decades after the Brooklyn-born grandmaster won his World Chess Championship match against the reigning champion from the Soviet Union, Boris Spasskey. Staged during the height of the Cold War, the match was seen by both sides as an opportunity to prove intellectual superiority. Pawn Sacrifice dramatizes this iconic battle-of-wits, but also delves into the psychological effects of obsession, dedication, and the heavy burden of worldwide expectation– even on the strongest of minds.
No film in recent memory lionizes a performance quite like Pablo Larraín’s Jackie. The entire film embraces Natalie Portman’s expert depiction of the iconic first lady. Portman’s performance has a imitative style to it, complete with specific elocution, affect, and emotion – all of which she delivers with a quiet and confident ferocity. Larraín takes full advantage of Portman’s talent by framing most of the film in close ups, a stylistic choice that instills the spectator with a deep empathy. Even the structure of the narrative reflects Portman’s performance: thoroughly non-linear, the disjointed organization conveys and cements the confusion that Jackie is experiencing. Portman’s nonesuch portrayal completely fuels Larraín’s film, and is responsible for the heights it reaches.