ABC Film Challenge – Sports – J – Critical Thinking (2020) Movie Review

This is under J because of director John Leguizamo.

Director: John Leguizamo

Writer: Dito Montiel (Screenplay)

Starring: John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jorge Lendeborg Jr, Angel Bismark Curiel, Jeffry Batista

Plot: The true story of the Miami Jackson High School chess team which was the first inner city team to win the U.S. National Chess Championship.

Tagline – Chess is the great equalizer

Runtime: 1 Hour 57 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Story: Critical Thinking starts as we meet Mr Martinez (Leguizamo) who runs a chess club for an inner city high school with a mixed diverse group of students, with the four standout players, Sedrick (Tuggles), Ito (Lendeborg Jr), Rodelay (Curiel) and Gil (Hochman), who all have come from a difficult background.

As the team start winning tournaments, it becomes clear the school isn’t going to fund them, leading to Mr Martinez needing to make things happen and the students must make their own decisions on their futures, ones that could see them go in different directions with the law.

Thoughts on Critical Thinking

Characters & Performances – Mr Martinez is the man that has been teaching the classes for years, he gives up his time to try and help them put the differences behind them and will fight to give them as bright of a future as other young people. He will encourage the students to compete in chess, bringing out a team ethic like the haven’t experienced before. John Leguizamo takes the teacher role and director role to make this one of his great performances and pieces of work. We have the students, Sedrick who is from a home with an abusive father, Ito that has fallen into the wrong side of town, falling towards the drug lords of the area. Rodelay and Gil who we don’t learn as much about, if anything about their personal lives, which is one of the weaknesses in the film, only pointing out the struggles of a couple of the main players. The actors all do a great job with their roles through the film.

StoryThe story here follows a teacher that looks to inspire a group of underprivileged students to take up chess, leading them into competition, giving them hope of a better life away from the one they find themselves facing. This story does fall into the category of the films which will see students that most people have given up on, given a chance to prove themselves and learn the life skills they may never have been given a chance to learn. This time it is chess and it shows that this is a sport that can see people from any background competing against each other to prove they are the best, while also teaching them teamwork through an individual sport. We get everything to make this one story we can enjoy, even if we don’t get the full impact of a couple of major developments about the characters.

ThemesCritical Thinking is a drama around playing chess, which will highlight the lesson people can learn from playing the game, but doesn’t always give us the best visual of how the game is playing out. The locations are used to show the homelife the students will be facing, ones that aren’t going to give them an easy future.


Critical Thinking is a great sports drama showing us the importance of giving people hope.

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