• Guy Jeffries

Borg vs McEnroe


Director: Janus Metz.

Starring: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny.

The film is marketed as telling the story of the rivalry between two of the world's tennis superstars, Swedish Björn Borg chasing his fifth Wimbledon championship after winning the four previous years in concession and the uprising talent of the obnoxious American, John McEnroe. However, it's more of a characterisation of each player as oppose to their rivalry, looking at their motives and methods, their history with the sport. What was more of a rivalry was their attitudes and approach to the game, Borg being the cool, often emotionless gentleman versus the aggressive and argumentative rebel.

It leads towards possibly the greatest tennis match in the history of the sport, the 1980 Wimbledon Grand Slam where both face each other in one of the most intense finals ever to be seen on centre court. Though the film doesn't sit on the net with an equal balance of the players and focuses mostly on Borg's side of the court. We are shown much of the character's background and actually how similar the two players are. What's shown to us in great detail is the pressure of winning and the negative effects of fame and attention, though it's not clear how much of this is true.

Gudnason was amazing as Borg having a near identical resemblance to the "ice man" however I couldn't see pass LaBeouf at being McEnroe and I found it hard to connect them both, not that it's the performance but probably more to do with the physical appearance, especially in comparison to Gudnason/Borg. Skarsgård is good as Borg's famous tennis coach and mentor, Lennart Bergerlin and I honestly thought Novotny was Noomi Rapace, playing Borg's fiancé.

It's official a Scandinavian film, so English is a second language, which I'm actually pleased about having been annoyed in the past by films having characters speak english instead of their native tongue. It adds to the authenticity and make you take the film more seriously. It could also explain the unbalanced narrative which obviously favours Borg. You could be mistaken for assuming that this is Borg's story but as you'll find out, it really isn't, and is only a fabricated interpretation of screenwriter Ronnie Sandahl.

It's Metz's main feature directorial debut after a number of TV episodes and a couple of award-winning documentaries. It's very well filmed and spliced together recreating that pinnacle match with some stunning captures making me take notice of Metz for future films. The production is brilliant, transplanting the audience back 37 years and beyond with impeccable costume designer.

The real life John McEnroe has stated the film is inaccurate, using imagined elements to make him look like "a jerk" and questions why he wasn't involved, not disagreeing with having been "a jerk" but instead has said in a recent Telegraph article that where is plenty of real life scenarios they could have drawn from as oppose to falsifying events. In the same article, the real life Borg comments, confirming McEnroe's criticisms also saying it would have been more interesting and factual if the pair of tennis greats were involved from the beginning.

Regardless of the real stars comments, the film is rather good, especially the outstanding finale. It's entertaining and done artistically though it drags ever so slightly leading up to the game. Possibly because we already know the outcome of the tournament and sit in anticipation for the gruelling final. Not knowing who wins will actually add tension, so if you don't, I suggest to wait till you've watched the film.

I feel it tells a grand story of the dedication and discipline of the sport, the competitiveness and respect among it's players and those around them possibly giving us a good insight into what could happen in those locker rooms before coming out onto the court. It could be comparable to Ron Howard's Rush, which both have a very similar premise, though this one feeling a little more one sided. Fans of sport biographies should enjoy this, however, it might annoy keen fans of the sport who known the real story.

Running Time: 8

The Cast: 7

Performance: 8

Direction: 8

Story: 7

Script: 7

Creativity: 8

Soundtrack: 7

Job Description: 8

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

68% 7/10

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