Borg vs. McEnroe focuses on the growing rivalry between Bjorn Börg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LeBeouf) during the 1980 Wimbledon tournament, culminating in their iconic men’s singles final.
Although the film is about their rivalry, the lack of screentime featuring both leads together is disappointing. Instead, Metz concentrates on their respective troubles and how they are (individually) struggling with their growing pressures of competition, providing little insight as to their thoughts on each other. In addition, his simple direction and Ronnie Sandahl’s minimalist screenplay fail to inspire the intensity between the two players.
However, the lead actors cannot be faulted. The steely-eyed Gudnason provides a stable foundation for the drama to unfold as the cool-headed Borg, while LeBoeuf delivers a strong performance as the hot-headed McEnroe. Both effectively display their characters’ respective insecurities and portray themselves as the yin and yang of Wimbledon, and their consistent emotiveness drives this simplistic feature.
For the most part, the narrative is quite slow and controlled but the piéce de resistance of Borg vs. McEnroe is Metz’s take on the iconic Wimbledon final. Using clever edits and occasional close-ups, he effectively captures the tension and excitement of the match while the two leads display both dramatic and athletic prowess. The result is an entertaining sequence that will certainly appease Wimbledon fans.
However, the finale comes across as too little, too late. Given sports biopics such as The Fighter, Rush and The Blind Side tend to thrill and inspire, most of Borg vs. McEnroe is all calm and composure that essentially falls flat. While it offers plenty of promise, it fails to hit the mark.
Borg vs. McEnroe is out in UK cinemas on 22 September.
Director: Janus Metz, Ronnie Sandahl (scr.)
Stars: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LeBoeuf, Stellan Skarsgård, Tuva Novotny
Runtime: 100 minutes