Borg vs McEnroe: Film Review
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gunadson, Stellan Skarsgard
Director: Janus Metz
Tennis and its rivalries seem to be de rigeur in the back half of the cinematic year.
First there was Battle of the Sexes, and now fresh from opening TIFF this year, comes a rather arthouse look at the rivalry between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe in the Wimbledon final of 1980.
Essentially more a psychological piece which favours a more rounded look at the Swedish legend Bjorg, Metz's film is a curious beast; one which is content to look at the sporting rivalry and suggest this pair have more in common than they do in conflict.
Gunadson's calm veneer gives a brief insight into Borg, but the film's writing favours him anyway, with more time spent exploring how he was as volatile in his early days as McEnroe, the tabloid-dubbed SuperBrat, was on court.
From seeing Skarsgard taking the young Borg on and mentoring him away from his explosive rage to a more pristine and precise form of gameplay, the film's interests lie in showing the pair have a common ground that's more unspoken than it is explained.
It doesn't stop Metz being quite basic with the delivery of this set up - he prefers to use quieter soundtracks for Borg's current state of mind and backstory, whereas McEnroe, who's served up only the briefest of an insight into his past, is given loud brash music to show the difference. It's not just that it's heavy-handed, it's a little jarring.
Thankfully, despite the relatively formulaic and stress-free delivery of the Wimbledon final, Metz's leads shine through to deliver great cinematic lobs.
LaBeouf is a simmering mess of a man as McEnroe; he's one who's riddled with doubt and anger at his brash, brazenportrayal in the media (seems almost biographical in retrospect).
And Gunadson's calm quiet delivery speaks volumes to both the fragility of Borg and his reputation as he chased the fifth consecutive Wimbledon win.
Ultimately, Borg vs McEnroe serves up a few lobs and volleys as well as some back and forth for a sports rivalry film. It's definitely got loftier arthouse ambitions and it almost meets them.