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Mansky is a surprise replacement for the American player Konigsberg, whose sudden death nearly cancelled the match. Seven days earlier, Mansky, a former chess champion and mathematical genius now reduced to severe alcoholism and counting cards at blackjack, was abducted while exiting a bar. He was drugged and flown to the US embassy in Warsaw.
CIA Agents Stone, White, and Novak discuss his credentials, which include top math scores at Princeton under Albert Einstein and triumph in a chess match, 17 years before, over the suddenly departed Konigsberg. The agents disclose their plan to Mansky: tournament regulations allow a player to be replaced only by the last player to beat him, who turns out to be Mansky thanks to that win 17 years ago. Mansky reluctantly agrees to serve.
At the championship, Mansky is housed in hotel quarters in that vast edifice of Stalinist Realism, Warsaw's Palace of Culture and Science , which also houses the match. Mansky is befriended by Party bigwig and former Polish Resistance hero Alfred Robert Wieckiewicz , now enjoying a plush sinecure as the director of the Palace of Culture. The Soviets have dispatched Alfred as Mansky's 'minder,' tasked with keeping him well lubricated and supervised.
To that end, Alfred deploys an impressive arsenal of obscure Polish vodkas, ingenious hiding places and secret tunnels. Mansky turns out to be an eccentric chess player with odd gifts even for a game known for weird personalities and unpredictable behavior. The Soviet strategy of keeping him drunk turns out to enhance his skills: he wins his first match, while drunk, in 32 moves.
The Soviets then employ a series of Boris-and-Natasha ploys, with varying success. Mansky and Alfred become friends, bonding first over smooth potato vodka and later over rebellious individualism. The plot thickens as we learn that espionage connected to the growing Cuban Missile Crisis is happening under the cover of the match, with spies and counterspies among the Embassy and Chess Championship delegations.
There are rumors of moles, double agents, and efforts to smuggle microfilm. Meanwhile, Alfred and Mansky sneak out of the hotel for two memorable, historically accurate scenes: They visit a Warsaw speakeasy packed with revelers, goulash and vodka, departing to sway together in the moonlight in the rubble-strewn ruins of a Warsaw house as Alfred recounts his WWII Resistance heroism.
Rooms are bugged; agents are double; and the threat of poisoning rampant in the espionage plot while the chess match twists and turns in parallel. There are wins, losses and draws, all tied to the growing crisis in Cuba.
Both sides in the chess match vie for international prestige while the Soviets chase the mole trying to get microfilm to the Americans, and the Americans suspect a traitor in their own ranks. Mansky grapples with his fluctuating capabilities, struggling to deliver chess wins to order. Like Alfred, he is ambivalent about the current government of his country.
Alfred regrets the Soviet domination of Poland and Mansky regrets the assistance he once gave to Oppenheimer, facilitating the birth of nuclear weapons. There are lethal consequences for many players as the microfilm, moles, Mansky and both American and Soviet agents reach their inevitable confrontation. The friendship of Alfred and Mansky becomes crucial to Mansky's survival, at extraordinary risk for Alfred. Advanced mathematics is also a player in the climax, as Mansky is able to use a classic logic puzzle to determine the authentic item among counterfeits, with implications for the safety of the entire world as the nuclear threat reaches its zenith.
Filming took place from February to April in Warsaw. William Hurt , originally cast as Joshua Mansky, suffered an accident while returning from the film set to his apartment, just a few days into shooting, and was replaced by Bill Pullman. His death was ruled an accident. The cause of death was head trauma caused by a "sharp-edged tool", and it was claimed that the movie producer fell off his boat into a lake and had his head crushed by the propeller of his own boat.
His cell phone remained on the boat. A year-old woman who was also on the boat survived, and the movie producer's bodyguard reportedly attempted a suicide soon after. The film premiered on September 18, at the 44th Gdynia Polish Film Festival  to positive critics' reviews  and was released in Polish theaters on November 8, The international release was planned for early It was released globally via streaming on February 8, through Netflix.
Writing for the Chicago Reader , Jamie Ludwig said: "You'd expect a film that involves espionage and a high-stakes chess tournament during the height of the Cold War to leave you on the edge of your seat. But then there's The Coldest Game. Bill Pullman who stepped into the lead role after the original actor William Hurt was injured just before production began gives a fantastic performance as Professor Joshua Mansky A few moments of dark humor beg to transform the film into a Vonnegut -type satire - it might have been better served had it been steered in that direction.
A middling one? Yeah, I'll sit through one of those, too. The Coldest Game falls in the latter category The whole affair - again, fictional - is a jumble of U-2 flights and intrigues, "quiet" rooms bugs are everywhere and booze. This ludicrous thriller with abysmal performances, an incoherent script, and routine plot twists that never surprise is sloppy, unconvincing, and thoroughly amateurish. There's no chance that the actual chess scenes will be boring or repetitive; there are no chess scenes.
A few quick moves, a tap of the clock, and it's over. Instead, viewers get to see scene after scene of staggeringly drunken men misbehaving and mustache-twirling cartoon villains giving orders to lackeys. Intercut with those sequences, the filmmakers have used newsreel footage some real, some not to remind of the thin plot's high stakes. The Coldest Game has nothing to recommend for any age group.
Families can talk about the portrayal of alcoholism in The Coldest Game. Do you think the lead character's drunkenness is exaggerated to facilitate the plot? Did the alcohol dependency ever become laughable or unbelievable? What, if any, were the consequences for Mansky's behavior?
How is The Coldest Game an example? Why do you think the genre is so appealing? Can you think of some film classics that used this plot? Hint: Alfred Hitchcock was a master of movies like one. Use this film as a springboard for learning. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the U.
Find out more about what really happened and how a catastrophic war was avoided. Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners. Parents' Ultimate Guide to Support our work!
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The "f" bomb is there about 4 times, mostly in subtitles. The Soviets are shown to think Americans are immoral due to slavery, women being in the home, and blacks not drinking from the water fountain while Soviets are actually for freedom. The plot jumps around.
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