Borg vs McEnroe

You cannot be so serious all the time Bjorn
Verdict: 
8/10 - For fans of the ‘80s golden era Borg/McEnroe, this will prove a thrilling treat.
Release Date: 
Friday, September 22, 2017
Written by: 

Borg vs McEnroe reveals the story behind tennis champions Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe’s battle for supremacy at the legendary 1980 Wimbledon Championship.

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The rivalry between tennis champions Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe at the 1980 Wimbledon Championship is the stuff of legend.

While tennis movies have rarely set the box office alight, there is certainly enough meat on the bones of this particular sporting battle between the cool Swedish ‘Iceberg’ and the hotheaded American 'Superbrat' to warrant its almost two-hour run-time.

The film centres on the tournament of 1980 with Björn Borg, played by Borg's countryman Sverrir Gudnason, on the cusp of his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title.

He is battling his fear of being usurped as world number one by the angry American, fittingly played by the 'enfant terrible of acting', Shia LaBeouf.

Their first Wimbledon final is especially memorable for the lengthy tie-break during the course of an extremely tense five-set showdown.

While the film promises an in-depth look at two of the sports' most legendary players, the weight of the movie is carried on the shoulders of Gudnason’s Borg.

As expected, McEnroe’s early on-court appearances are marred by tantrums and unsportsmanlike behaviour, in contrast to the supercool demeanour of the blonde Swede.

But flashbacks to his early years show that Borg the younger, played by the sportsman’s teenage son Leo in his big screen debut, wasn’t averse to many tantrums of his own.

It was only when his tennis career was threatened by his mentor and demanding coach, former tennis pro Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgard), that Borg got himself under control.

The film opens with the tennis player at the height of his fame and struggling with the demands of fans and businessmen intruding on his life and privacy.

He lives in Monaco with his fiancee, Mariana Simionescu (Tuva Novotny), but has to duck into shops to avoid female fans chasing him down the street.

Meanwhile, as well as possessing a seriously short fuse, McEnroe suffers with pushy parents, for whom coming second is not good enough.

He also struggles with the focus on his unprofessional behaviour by the media as opposed to his match performance.

The run-up to the final is interspersed with flashbacks of the stars during their formative years, filling in their individual backstories, and revealing the anxiety Borg feels about achieving the career high of five consecutive championships.

Directed by Janus Metz, the actors recreate the same shots played by the athletes in the various rounds and subsequent final.

The period detail is spot on, and even includes a colourful scene in a recreation of iconic disco Studio 54 with a bemused Borg at the centre.

For fans of the ‘80s golden era Borg/McEnroe, this will prove a thrilling treat.

Gudnason really is the star of the film as he embodies the Swede’s handsome look and cool demeanour perfectly as well as revealing his tightly-wound, selfish personality and all-encompassing desire to win.

LaBeouf is the perfect foil as the bratty, foul-mouthed American, who finally comes face-to-face to duel with his idol.

While the final result is a matter of record, it is still enthralling to watch the actors replay the shots and director Metz should take credit for the amount of tension he managed to create throughout the film.

Borg vs McEnroe is a must-see for Gudnason’s performance and for its spotlight on an era when tennis was full of enthralling characters.

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