The Queen's Gambit ★★★★½

“The strongest person is the person who isn’t scared to be alone.”

When the immense success of Scott Frank's Netflix mini-series The Queen's Gambit first came to my attention, I was genuinely curious about how a series about a woman in the 1950s and 60s playing chess was able to generate so much buzz and turn into one of the most talked-about releases of the entire year within a few weeks. Granted, in a year that saw major delays and postponements, that achievement might be taken with a grain of salt, but the very reason for how The Queen's Gambit became so successful is most likely just the superb writing, and the extraordinary performance by Anya Taylor-Joy who manages to pull the audience into her hypnotic portrayal.

And seriously, this is one of the best-written pieces of the entire year. Personally, I don't really know much about chess; I tried playing it a few times over the years, but always sucked at it, so I would consider myself amateurish at best when it comes to anything chess-related. The biggest strength of The Queen's Gambit is that it manages to make chess exciting both for those already well-versed in the game, and for those who have no talent, or maybe even no interest, in chess. And that's because this series doesn't make it all about chess, but rather focuses on Beth Harmon's character, and mostly uses chess as a supporting character - a well-developed and respectfully embedded one, but still a supporting character. Instead, this series is an absorbing character study that focuses on an enthralling and complex person. Anya Taylor-Joy is towering and delivers on every account.

So, if you are not distracted by seeing Thomas Brodie-Sangster with a beard and a cowboy hat (wtf) and an older Dudley Dursley (whose actor, Harry Melling, really has been delivering stellar work during the past two years), there should be no reason to hesitate before seeing this. And if you are, watch it anyway, because this is one of the best things to be released on Netflix this year.

2020 Ranked

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