Bill Pullman, right, and Evgeniy Sidikhin in “The Coldest Game” 2019. IMDb photo

I scrolled endlessly through Netflix, Hulu, Prime, HBOMax and all the myriad offerings on my living room screen and prepared to go to bed.

Then I saw Bill Pullman, (“Independence Day,” “The Sinner”) one of my favorite actors, stable, not a headliner, who eschews car chases as a rule, but is a trained actor.

Here was Bill’s name tucked into a couple of sentences about a chess game in Moscow, just as Khrushchev was sailing a boatload of missiles to Castro’s Cuba. And some Intel folks want Bill’s help, in Lukas Kosmicki and Marcel Sawicki’s “The Coldest Game.”

So I was drawn into a fictional chess game full of cliches about how this game, held in Warsaw, will mess up Russia’s plan to nuke Miami, Brooklyn and possibly Skowhegan if the wind’s right, and end the Cuban Missile Crisis. Did we end that? Then why isn’t Starbucks in Havana?

The plot, cobbled together with bits and pieces of discarded treatments, involves pitting an American chess champ against the Russian’s ace ( a typically, old school, stoic Muscovite, Evgeniy Sidikhin.

But the American drops out by dropping dead. No game? There goes Miami?


No, the CIA gets wind of a former famous chess champ, Joshua Mansky, (Pullman) a math professor good at card counting, (will that help?) who came up in the ranks but decided to try alcoholism. Don’t they all do that?

This brings in all the good looking CIA guys and dolls, (Lotte Verbeek, James Bloor, Corey Johnson) who sweep up our Joshua, get him to Warsaw, look him over and find his soft spot. He’s a functional drunk, keep him loaded and he’s fine.

“Coldest Game” is loaded with the usual suspects, bad Russians, (a way over the top Russian general Krutov (Aleksey Serebryakov) kind of good Americans, very good Poles (Robert Wieckiewicz) and a pensive American agent (Verbeek) you’ll have to watch, because she has a tiny needle in her purse, and, did I mention the wine cork or the microfilm that will show us where the missiles, the ones aimed at Miami Beach, you know the place, the one where the boys are?

There are several twists near the end and you are required to pay attention. Can you do that?

If not, go back and finish up “Slow Horses,” which is very slow, (you’ll need subtitles) but it does have Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott.

“The Coldest Game” streams on Netflix.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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