The Queen's Gambit

The Queen's Gambit ★★★★

Aside from LB my only real activity on the Internet is playing Chess. Obviously I don't count watching the odd bit of porn as "activity", but you get my drift, no Facebook, Twitter, or any of that malarkey, but pitching my wits against another geek from across the globe over a Chessboard keeps my brain active.

This Netflix Mini-series begins with a young girl orphaned in the mid 1950's. In the orphanage she's given tranquilizers to make her compliant, and soon she begins to enjoy the effects they have on her. During this time she's also become intrigued with the caretaker who plays himself at Chess in the basement, and before long he's taught her to play and her obsession takes hold. A nine-year old with an addiction to tranquilizers and Chess? Sounds like a happy little tale doesn't it? Well actually, it's quite a funny and odd mix in the early episodes, but really comes into it's own when Anya Taylor-Joy takes over the mantle of Beth Harmon from younger actress Isla Johnston. If you have any interest in Chess at all then this will hook you early on, and with Taylor-Joy giving a remarkable performance as Beth, each and every episode takes us further into obsession, dependency, and genius levels of competitive Chess.

This has so many terrific scenes, and even as a Chess aficionado I could appreciate the skill levels and the complexity of the games from the beginning and Beth's rise from obscurity towards Chess immortality. Along the way she tries to deal with her own inner demons, from the pills to her obsession with Chess which has left her socially underdeveloped. She's awkward around boys, around people in fact, but when she starts to earn money from tournaments that she travels to with her adoptive mother, she starts to blossom into a real talent where everybody starts to take notice. Her only friends are other Chess players, and she has nothing in common with her teenage peers, and the pills have been replaced by alcohol. Her obsession to be the best is what drives her, but what will it cost her?

The Queen's Gambit is a beautifully constructed and compelling mini-series. Later in the series the sixties fashions that they have Anya Taylor-Joy dressed in are exquisite, whoever did the costume designs on this deserves immense credit for making this such an authentic looking take on the sixties. Taylor-Joy is beautiful, put her in the right clothes and she goes up a notch, and those eyes, even in that poster, they couldn't be more alluring. She does most of this on her own, but supporting players like Bill Camp (early on), Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Harry Melling just add to the magnetism that Taylor-Joy brings in spades.

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