Dir: Janus Metz Pedersen | Shia LaBeouf, Sverir Gudnason, Tuva Novotny, Robert Emms | Sports Biopic Drama | Sweden/Finland/Denmark | 100′
Janus Pederson’s drama of tennis rivals BORG/McENROE is actually far more exciting than the distant memory of their Wimbledon exchanges, if – like me – you’re more interested in their personalities than the game itself. And that’s because tennis is a game of wits and psychology, perhaps more that any other sport, and these are two highly fascinating men, brought to life here appealing by Shia LeBoeuf, as McEnroe, and striking lookalike, Sverir Gudnason as Borg.
Compariing their respective rise to fame through fandom of the 1970s in Sweden and Queens, New York with gently humorous nostalgia as they both master their explosive neuroses, BORG/McENROE then goes straight for the jugular with an all out gripping finale showcasing that last epic match in July 1980 that rocked the world. Ronnie Sandahl’s makes us see how two very different characters actually shared similar strengths of perseverance, dedication and self-belief.
With its pounding score, this is a well-paced and luminously cinematic and absorbing watch not least for its compelling performances from LeBoeuf whose volatile but vulnerable appeal is far more magnetic than the memory of the real mercurial McEnroe (you cannot be serious!), making us feel for him and his private demons. In stark contrast, Gudnason’s nuanced charisma is every bit as mesmerising as he slowly generates an onscreen allure, transforming the captivatingly feline Swede into a magical sports hero. That said, this Nordic production is much more fleshed out in regard to Borg than McEnroe, and there are times when we’d like to have had more New York backstory about the New Yorker with his over-bearing father wittily played by Ian Blackman (Hail,Caesar!). Three different actors play the young Borg, including the young, his own son Leo, who is the most persuasive. Stellan Skargard exerts a masterful influence as his coach and former player, Lennart Bergelin. And Tuva Novotny is his gentle, chain-smoking fiancé Mariana Simionescu. Vitas Gerulaitis as a combative Robert Emms. MT
OUT ON 15 SEPTEMBER 2017