Netflix movie The Coldest Game is a Polish production set in Poland but with mostly English dialogue, and mostly is about how an American plays chess against a Russian at the fever-pitched height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
A drunk, dishevelled Joshua Mansky (Pullman) is propping up a Brooklyn bar, far from his glory days as a Math professor and chess wiz, when he’s approached by a woman far classier than the joint, American agent Eleanor Stone (Lotte Verbeek). After some token small-talk, she abducts the prof and flies him to Warsaw.
Here an international chess match between the US and the Soviet Union is about to take place, with the hope that some polite competition will diffuse the political crisis. However, Russians are already playing dirty, and American’s grandmaster has been murdered; hence Mansky, who is now charged with taking on the Russian champ Alexander Gavrylov (Yevgeny Sidikhin) while making contact with a defecting Russian with intel that will aid Kennedy’s own chess match over Cuba.
The genre of espionage has turned majorly into another branch of action flicks. The ones that don’t follow this glamorous path, the ones that stick to the basics of espionage, the ones that use tension and thrill to tell the story are rather rare. ‘The Coldest Game’ tries to be one of them, and with the premise that it chose, it very well could have been a great one at that. However, there are a number of flaws and becomes a mediocre attempt.
The most noteworthy thing about the film is its cast and crew. Bill Pullman, who is an established actor with roles in projects like ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Sinner’, plays the protagonist, Joshua Mansky. As a genius but troubled mathematician, the actor gives his best to the role. We get that chess is the main part of the story, but the story doesn't develop as a chess film but rather as an espionage thriller. True, when Alfred searingly talks about the war it does stir something inside us.