The Queen’s Gambit [9/10]

The Queen’s Gambit” is a chess drama, and if you are anxious about boredom, rest assured. Gladiatorial grandmaster chess is a tense, vicious sport, and this dramatisation of Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel is a tour de force. Over seven episodes, it explores the life of prodigy Beth, from her orphanage beginnings, through her troubled teens, and up into the stratospheric grandmaster world in her early adulthood. Exploring seamlessly issues of love and identity and addiction and ambition, the script flows like a river. Anya Taylor-Joy mesmerizes as famous Beth, and Isia Johnston is only slightly less impressive as child Beth, while memorable performances by Bill Camp (a chess-playing janitor), Harry Melling (a fine male player), Marielle Heller (stepmother), and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (a grandmaster) flesh out a pitch-perfect cast. Beth’s dialogue, always sharp and unexpected, could be a scripting masterclass. Steven Meizier’s cinematography, allied to the vibrant 60s costumery, ensure a constant visual feast. And the chess scenes crackle with tension and nuance. All in all, The Queen’s Gambit is a must-see.

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