Björn Borg, a mannered enigma, and John McEnroe, a hot head with a brash reputation, developed a public rivalry with each other based on their differences in athletic gameplay and sportsmanship. However, if you’re looking for a explanatory grasp on their relationship, you won’t find it in Borg vs. McEnroe. The film itself is adequate by biopic and sport movie standards – merely on its surface – but its focus is more targeted on individual arcs.
Director Janus Metz does a good job of transporting viewers back in time through terrific set and costume design, and Ronnie Sandahl’s screenwriting keeps up with Borg and McEnroe through narrative jumps. The film is also comprehensive when describing personal relationships. Then again, the performances elevate the material. The most fascinating connection is the primary focus on Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and his trainer Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård), a working friendship that begins with Bergelin empathizing with a misunderstood Björn.
On the flip-side, McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) is in his most interesting element when he’s left alone to reflect on how his behaviour is eclipsing his professionalism in the public eye; even though it may be, in fact, helping him win. Whether he’s on a crowded tennis court or lounging privately in his hotel room, LaBeouf sinks into an effective stupor and quickly pulls himself out when he needs to represent McEnroe differently around his peers.
With exciting tennis matches and intoxicating cinematography in tow, Borg vs. McEnroe does the trick, but only in the moment.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie