Review: Borg McEnroe: Well-made sports drama
09 Dec 2017 - 11:22
By Troy Ribeiro / IANS
Film: "Borg McEnroe" | Director: Janus Metz | Cast: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Tuva Novotny and Ian Blackman | Rating: ***
A sports drama, director Janus Metz's film "Borg McEnroe" is the story of two legendary tennis players with diametrically opposite personalities, one stoic and the other effervescent.
Narrated like a documentary in a non-linear manner, the film follows the Swedish Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and American John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf). Reflecting the players' anxieties and insecurities, it reveals the contraposition of their methods of playing tennis and moving through life and courts.
Borg was cold, a machine, a base player. He was like an automaton and was briefed to concentrate on "one point at a time", whereas McEnroe was an unpredictable, aggressive strategist who fought with everyone.
As the film inevitably dramatizes their first historical face-off at the 1980 Wimbledon Men's Singles Final, it tells us about their past and how they may or may not be able to cope with losing the title match in the coming days. In the process, it reveals how events in their lives have shaped into creating their respective temperaments. It also talks about their ambition and sacrifices and moreover reveals that the "former rivals were best enemies and were now friends".
The screenplay by writer Ronnie Sandahl and director Janus Metz is simple and taut. It has the right amount of levity before getting too serious, and then letting loose throughout the tense tennis match sequences as well.
While the narrative focusses a lot on the players and their personalities, it does not give us much insight into their family lives and it appears that the focus is more on Bjorn than on John.
The repetitive flashbacks make the film slightly boring at times. But the film at 107 minutes manages to hold your interest simply because of the performances.
Gudnason and LaBeouf give terrific performances. Sverrir is apparently a distant cousin of the player. He not only looks just like Bjorn Borg, but his committed performance really takes his character over the edge.
LaBeouf, despite his limitations, definitely holds his own as well. He emulates McEnroe's eccentric character with precision.
Though the other characters play a significant part in the lives of the players, they are just sidelined. Prominent among them are; Tuva Novotny as Borg's fiancee Mariana Simionescu, Stellan Skarsgard as Borg's mentor and manager Lennart "Labbe" Bergelin, Ian Blackman as John's father McEnroe Sr.
Overall, with moderate production values, and decent camera work the film encapsulates the players and their glorious moments.
It is a treat for those who had watched the live matches on television as it revives memories, and apart from that, the film has enough elements to appeal to even neophytes of the sport.