24 April 2018 | hannahgrahambell
Strong psychological portrait of two tennis stars
Borg vs McEnroe presents a powerful and well-made portrait of two tennis rivals under immense psychological stress. Despite this, it may fail to stick in the minds of non-tennis enthusiasts.
Borg vs McEnroe is like many sports movies in that it focuses on the mindset of the individual players to heighten the drama. However, it is unique in its presentation of the contrast between Borg and McEnroe; two brilliant rivals who experience excruciating inner and outer pressure, but who deal with it in different ways. The film manages to convey near-complete psychological portraits of the two tennis stars through a combination of flashbacks, character interactions, and scenes on the court.
The film succeeds due to its skillful cinematography and powerful performances from Sverrir Gudnason (Borg) and Shia LaBeouf (McEnroe). Borg vs McEnroe feels comfortable using unique shots and cuts to portray a certain emotion or action sequence, but it doesn't overuse any techniques so as to distract from the reality of the events. Thus, the use of dramatic cinematic embellishments rarely feels overly theatrical or out of place. The second main strength of the movie is the two performances from Gudnason and LaBeouf. The actors accent the emotional torment that the tennis figures faced, and without such strong performances the movie wouldn't have been worth the watch.
The real value of Borg vs McEnroe is the questions it raises about success and perceptions of success, and it highlights the fact that the media's portrayal of athletes rarely tells the whole story. But the movie is clearly building towards the great match between Borg and McEnroe, and so that promise must be fulfilled. The final tennis scene is done effectively, but it is not strong enough to bring the whole movie to a close. For those who are unaware of how the match turned out, the third act will be riveting. For those who know the end result, they may feel that it drags out a little longer than necessary. One choice by the filmmakers that undermines the final scene was their obvious bias towards Borg by focusing on his flashbacks and emotions over those of McEnroe. Ultimately, the movie's strengths overshadow its weaker points; Borg vs McEnroe is a solid biographical sports film, even if it can't quite mix sports thrills with an in-depth character analysis.