“Queens Gambit” (2020) Review

Check out this episode of the Video Lab Podcast, where myself, Sam, and another guest get together to discuss “The Queens Gambit.”

A brilliant period drama and coming of age story drenched with attention to detail and originality, flirting with familiar themes while skillfully avoiding cliché. As a seven episode mini-series, “The Queen’s Gambit” is a near perfectly structured book adaptation, impeccably paced, and above all, superb entertainment.

Perhaps most enjoyable about “The Queens Gambit” is its writing and cinematography convey a deep love of chess’s golden era of competition, showcasing total devotion from main character Beth and supporting characters. The most engaged, dramatic, and suspenseful moments are high stakes matches where everything feels on the line. Without requiring any knowledge of the game itself, these moments are mesmerizing and electric.

The fascination and energy captured by matches is evidently confirmed by Netflix’s numbers as well, where viewing records on the platform were shattered. Netflix also notes that Google searches for chess have doubled since the show’s release, queries for “how to play chess” hit a nine year high, chess set sales have skyrocketed, and players on chess.com have increased five fold.

Beth’s pursuit of chess is her all encompassing prism through which we see her flaws, triumphs, and relationships. Its how she is comfortable interacting with the world, and its this pursuit which guides her totally. Characters outside of Queen’s Gambit’s chess world can be a little two dimensional, even if well performed, and the series’ wonderful simplicity also bears slight superficiality with ancillary storylines. Chess matches reveal the most about Beth and the people she meets, and unrelated scenes outside of these vary in their staying power.

Anya Taylor-Joy delivers a stunning performance that carries the series and sustains its high. She is adept at morphing Beth as she ages, and cataloging anguish and excitement with minor expressions and unyielding intensity through her glare. While the entire cast is a great ensemble, Beth’s rivals-turned-companions, Benny Watts (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Harry Beltik (Harry Melling), are noteworthy for being outstanding complimentary performances to Taylor-Joy.

A near masterpiece of production and riveting from start to finish, “The Queen’s Gambit” is a rare series truly in the category of must watch television, providing unparalleled bang-for-buck value and blissful finality. Packed with incredible cinematography, set design, wardrobe, and soundtrack, amidst its many other pieces, “The Queen’s Gambit” is a pure joy that we can only hope Netflix is able to replicate with future projects.

93% A

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