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Queen’s Gambit

I don’t typically write reviews on limited series, but this one is so good that I couldn’t help myself.  Most everyone has seen it by now: A young girl who ends up in an orphanage when her mother dies in a car accident discovers that she has a proclivity toward chess. The series, based on a novel by the same name that I understand is quite good, follows her rise over 7 episodes in the chess world as she simultaneously battles various addictions. Every now and then a limited series comes along that is really special; last year, it was When They See Us, about the Central Park 5. Queen’s Gambit is exceptional in every way. First, it is amazing to me that the director could make chess into something really exciting. The camera shots during the various matches, along with the score, create thrilling scenes bursting with tension and suspense. The novel is set in the 1960s, and the music and costumes are perfectly matched to the era. Even small details, like when we used to buy our parent’s cigarettes with a note from mom, are included. Anya Taylor-Joy is brilliant; she expertly portrays a multifaceted character. Not only is she fantastic here, but the combination of her acting and the camera that follows Taylor-Joy is just the right combination; the director captures her stunning beauty and confidence in sometimes long takes where she is walking toward the camera, or she is making flirtatious looks at her always male opponents during her chess matches, the fear when she drops into her downward spirals. Other actors are also great, particularly Marielle Heller, who plays Beth’s mother and has to deal with her own tragedies, and the super-confident US Chess champion Benny Watts, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. In terms of directing, scriptwriting, acting, music, and costume, this ranks up there with the best. It will be one of my favorite watches of the year. (2020; 5 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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