“Borg vs McEnroe” stars Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny, and Robert Emms. Released in Sweden on September 8, 2017, followed by a North American release on April 13, 2018, the film chronicles the fierce rivalry between Björn Borg and John McEnroe.
The film is directed by Janus Metz Pedersen, who also directed the 2010 documentary film, “Armadillo”. Tennis may not be for everyone, but it does have a few interesting stories to tell when it comes to some well-known tennis players. Many of you may not be familiar with this latest sports biopic, but I bet that some of you may know about the rivalry between Borg, a Swedish tennis player, and McEnroe, an American player with a huge attitude problem. The last time I’ve seen a tennis biopic was last year’s “Battle of the Sexes”, another film based on the rivalry between professional tennis players, which made me appreciate how Hollywood portrays the sport and the players themselves. I’ve only seen the trailer for this film at least once on Youtube, and seeing LaBeouf back in the acting business since his accidents outside of his career was the only reason why I was interested in checking it out. It didn’t appear at my closest cinema, so I had to use one of my streaming services to review this film. Thanks, Amazon Prime. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in to this bitter confrontation.
The story follows a structure that centers on Björn Borg (Gudnason) and John McEnroe (LaBeouf) and their journey to the final round of the 1980 Wimbledon Championships. Not only that, but it also shows a series of flashbacks to their earlier years of playing tennis. What this movie did right for me was that it showcased tennis as a mind game. There are plenty of stuff in tennis that will make players lose their gosh darn mind, on and off the court, and this film displayed it in the most marvelous way possible. Leading up to the final match between Borg and McEnroe, Janus Metz Pedersen was able to portray these players as flawed humans who have their share of issues involving emotion. It’s their internal struggles that were as invigorating as the final match itself mostly due to Metz Pedersen’s direction and Ronnie Sandahl’s sharp screenplay. Gudnason was one of the proper standouts in the film as Borg and LaBeouf was definitely a force to be reckoned with in his engaging portrayal of McEnroe. LaBeouf really nailed this character’s persona like it was nothing, which made me really happy that he’s starting to turn his acting career around. Skarsgård also turned in a very convincing performance as Borg’s coach, Lennart Bergelin. The film’s final act, which is the men’s singles final between Borg and McEnroe, may be one of the most intense and eye-catching scenes in sports biopic history. Its camera angles, the editing, and its use of tension were able to capture every set in solid detail, and I got to say, I was immediately engaged from the first set to the last. As for its flaws, I would say that the flashbacks involving McEnroe were having a hard time matching the same amount of emotion as the Borg flashbacks. Mostly because I was more interested in Borg’s internal struggle compared to my interest in McEnroe’s.
Overall, Like “Battle of the Sexes”, “Borg vs McEnroe” is a tennis biopic done right. It’s a fascinating and deep representation of how tennis affects the players mentally filled with strong performances, great direction, and an intense third act. I believe a lot of people could learn a thing or two from this film if they’re thinking about playing tennis. As for me, personally, I think that this is the best tennis film I’ve seen since…well, “Battle of the Sexes”. I would highly recommend it to those who like watching tennis and to those who are familiar with the rivalry between Borg and McEnroe.