The Queen’s Gambit
|Directed by: Scott Frank||Genre(s): Drama, Movie/Mini-Series|
|Original Music Composer: Carlos Rafael Rivera||Writing Credits: Walter Tevis, Allan Scott, Scott Frank|
|Film Editing: Michelle Tesoro||Series Cinematography By: Steven Meizler|
|Language: English, Russian, Spanish||Runtime: 6h 33min|
Finally, a scripted series that respects the intelligence of its audience while at the same time creating a compelling story with tight writing, terrific directing, composing and production design, surprisingly fresh music supervision and wonderful casting. The six-episode series based on Walter Tevis’s novel of the same name follows young orphan Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) as she grows up and battles addiction while seeking to become the best chess player in the world during the Cold War.
Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), from ‘Emma’ fame shines oh so much more brightly here, weaving a compelling character with a panoply of emotional looks that range from sultry to cerebral and back again. Moses Ingram, and Thomas Brodie Sangster also shine but really, there are no bad actors here, and that’s a credit to the creators as well. Hats off to Scott Frank and Scott Allan for the well-crafted scripts and to Walt Tevis for his original source material.
If you want to watch how the story of a superwoman can be and should be told, The Queen’s Gambit is the perfect demonstration. This one will grab hold of your senses by the end of the first episode and won’t let go until it’s the end.
It’s a very clever amalgam of many genres – a character study, a sports genre movie. The brilliant opening episode where Beth learns how to play chess resembles an insolent disciple learning from a master and the master doesn’t just teach her playing by the steps but teaches her through her mistakes and drops big name chess moves like Scholar’s Mate, there over!
I had no idea it can be so thrilling to behold and so damn sexy. The scenes involving the playing of chess are amazing. The storyteller made it in such a way that you don’t need to know how the game is played to appreciate the battle of minds, the psychological mind-games and the amazing strategies. Sure, one doesn’t sweat profusely from a game of chess, not if you have everything to lose. I particularly love the scenes of Beth playing mental chess on the ceiling. The show depicts Beth starting up at her bedroom ceiling at night under the hallucinatory effects of tranquilizers. She imagines a giant chessboard and, as she learns the rules, the pieces’ flicker in and out of different configurations as she entertains various possibilities. The same effect takes place mid-game as Beth stares down at the board, pulling the audience into her fascinating mind as she works through countless possibilities in the process of determining the best course of action.
Anya Taylor-Joy, her big eyes have a way of drawing you into a mindscape. she is superbly cast here and it is hard to think of another actress who can play the role after you have seen her. You would think the series is all hers but no. Every role, however periphery, is so well-cast and well-acted. A lot of them only appeared in some episodes but the screenplay is so well-written and the scenes they are in are so laden with empathic power that they are seared into your consciousness. The sense of place and time is superbly rendered too.
Just in case the trick would ever get old, the show is smart to employ a variety of other tactics. Some games are narrated and inter-spliced after the fact from the characters’ points of view, while in others, the camera cuts rapidly from one player’s face to the other’s so that viewers can read the victory in their expressions. Just like the game itself, no match ever unfolds the same way as one previous, making it obvious that plenty of craftsmanship ideas are worked for it.
It nails the ending – Actually, with these types of sport genre shows, the ending is a foregone conclusion. This conclusion is a flimsy great one! Beth’s victory was said to be the audience victory as in the series and as well as to the viewers too. I love how in the last episode everything comes full circle. The characters and players who all had a part to play in her evolvement all appeared, including Mr Shaibel who taught her one last lesson even though he had passed on.
If you are surfing through Netflix wondering what to see, see this. Just look deeply into her eyes as she stares at you over a chessboard. She whispers softly, “You can start my clock. Let’s play.”