The story of the 1980s tennis rivalry between the placid Björn Borg and the volatile John McEnroe.
As the title suggests, ‘Borg vs McEnroe’ is a sports movie about the rivalry between the two great tennis champions, culminating in their legendary Wimbledon final in 1980. For any Tennis fans, the outcome of that final will not be in doubt, but ‘Borg vs McEnroe’ does a solid job of ratcheting up the tension nonetheless and it manages to recreate the final in a way to maximise the intrigue (the pedant in me may point out an error in the tie break serving logic and the score at one point, but it shouldn’t take much away!). Before this point, the film alternates between both players, showing them as they make their way through the 1980 Wimbledon tournament whilst also flashing back regularly to key moments in their childhood and their early career.
‘Borg vs McEnroe’ achieves what any good sports film manages to do in that it provides a greater insight into its characters than you would already know without sacrificing the need to tell an entertaining story. It contrasts the two champions superbly by focusing on their differences, yet also showing that they are perhaps more alike than one would think. The film spends time with both characters but it focuses more on Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and I thought this was a smart choice; there’s a lot more to unpick behind the Swede’s ice cool demeanour than in McEnroe’s heart on his sleeve approach, and I thought it was a really interesting portrayal. Both Gudnason and Shia LaBeouf as McEnroe in particular capture the mannerisms of the players they were portraying perfectly, and Stellan Skarsgard is predictably solid as Borg’s coach and father figure Lennart Bergelin.
‘Borg vs McEnroe’ is a very good sports movie, well acted and gripping despite the outcome being widely known, and I really enjoyed it.
Directed By: Janus Metz
Starring: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny and Robert Emms