Movie Review Rewind: Bobby Fischer Against the World (2011)
Bobby Fischer is arguably the greatest chess player of all time. Even if you do not play chess, you know his name and his accomplishments. However, who exactly is the man who sits in front of the chess board? Director Liz Garbus tackles that subject and shines a light not only on his professional life, but a brighter one on his personal life. Bobby Fischer Against the World tells about one fascinating man who had a gift for playing the complex game of chess. Ever since he was a boy, he loved the game and it is undoubtedly safe to say he became obsessed with it. But with his genius, he paid a heavy price in the other areas of his life. Bobby Fischer thought the world was against him, but come to find out, it was him against himself the entire time.
Fischer had a troubled childhood and the game of chess saved his life. It gave him something he could really apply himself to and it certainly paid off. At the age of 15, he became the U.S. Champion and became World Champion when he was just 29 years-old after defeating Boris Spassky during the height of the Cold War. After that, Fischer was seen as a hero by everyone because he was the American who beat the Russian. And the best part is finding out what occurred before and during the matchup. The realization of the destruction Fischer causes within himself while battling with his own demons starts to sink in and show its ugly face.
After he becomes the Michael Phelps of his time, Fischer takes a hiatus from chess and refuses to defend his championship. It isn’t until almost 20 years later when he decides to resurface and play Spassky in a rematch set in Yugoslavia. Not only did this get him in to trouble with international law and make him a fugitive, but it was just a sad sight to see. It was clear he had fallen from grace.
This documentary shows the young rise and tragic fall of a chess prodigy. Fischer suffered from a mental illness and it becomes quite clear by the end of the film. And while this illness made him exceptionally gifted in chess, it ruined everything else and turned him in to a paranoid schizophrenic. The game he loved came with a side of madness. Bobby Fischer Against the World is a mesmerizing and disturbing story about a troubled man who had unimaginable success at such a young age and then went on a downward spiral. And the most tragic part is seeing the pain and anguish that Fischer brings upon himself. It hurts to watch but you are unable to turn away.
The doc fascinates while being tough to watch, especially seeing what becomes of the man who was once hailed as a hero. But Garbus wants you to see Fischer for better or worse, and there is plenty of both. And there are more than a few times where Fischer is not a likable guy and you almost wish he would lose so he would be put in his place. Yet the more the film uncovers about him and the suffering he puts himself through, you pity the man instead of hating him.
Fischer was one of a kind and while his life is an incredibly crazy one, it doesn’t erase what he has accomplished. What Tiger Woods did for golf, Fischer did for chess. No one can take that away from him. Why no one has made a documentary about him until now I will never know, but I am glad Garbus made it happen. If ever there was story worth telling and a life worth sharing, it’s Fischer’s.
Brandon Vick is a member of The Music City Film Critics’ Association, the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and the star of The Vick’s Flicks Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.