1980 was a massive year in sports. It was the year that the U.S., and other countries, boycotted the Olympic Games held in Russia. It was also the year that an unknown woman by the name of Rosie Ruiz cheated her way to the finishing line to ‘win’ the Boston Marathon. But it was also the year that Swede Bjorn Borg competed against American John McEnroe for the Wimbledon men’s championship, and what a game it was. The new film “Borg vs McEnroe” totally captures this exciting match.
Not only does the film capture, in very good detail, the match to end all matches, it also goes deep into the lives of both men, their upbringing, their careers as the world’s top tennis players, as well as their relationships with others. However, this being a Swedish production, the film mostly focuses on Borg (played by a practical look-a-like in Sverrir Gudnason). McEnroe, played by Shia LaBeouf, is also very good as the bad boy of tennis which almost mirrors LaBeouf’s offscreen behaviour.
We see Bjorg as young man (played by his own son Leo) in the city where he grew up and started playing tennis against a wall near his home; we see him as a successful tennis player, living the life of luxury, high atop a luxurious apartment building in Monaco which he shares with his partner Marianna (Tuva Novotny). She stands by his side, and allows him to stay focused on his games, even if that means him being very obsessed with the preparation of each match, and the torment by his parents who have taught him never to be second best. Borg’s relationship with his coach Lennart (an excellent Stellan Skarsgard) is a volatile one, but it’s also like father and son. Meanwhile, McEnroe has demons of his own – his reputation precedes him, and it’s going to be a dual to the finish at the Wimdledom championships as to who’s going to come out the winner.
“Borg vs McEnroe,” a multilingual film, ends with the play by play of the 1980 men’s championship final. And if you don’t remember who won, it’s a nail-biting 20 minutes that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And it’s this finale that makes “Borg vs McEnroe” one of the best sports films since 2013’s racing car film “Rush.” Danish Director Janus Metz keeps the suspense and drama very much alive while writer Ronnie Sandahl expertly crafts the 110 minute movie to include aspects of both champions lives as well as their tennis successes.