Borg vs McEnroe feels like a film more tailored for the streaming services market. A minor feature that’s likely to only really be of interest to tennis fanatics, and even then they might prefer a more traditional documentary, Janus Metz Pedersen‘s drama never feels like a complete production, despite its substantial focus on Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and his intensely monitored childhood.
Set predominantly on the eve of the 1980 Wimbledon Championships, where the famous rivalry between the Swedish Borg and hot-headed American John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) had reach a fever pitch, Borg vs McEnroe does its best to let us in on the declining mindset of Borg with consistent flashbacks to his days as a young, angry child hoping to hone his rage on the court; sequences detailing his childhood hint at a more investing film that sadly never comes to fruition.
Only 24-years-old when he was competing for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon win, Borg was ironically facing his own mortality in the industry, fearing his status as the number one player in the world was waning. His tennis player fiancee Mariana Simionescu (Tuva Novotny) and father-like trainer Lennart (Stellan Skarsgard) offer him nothing but support, but his temperament that he was his own worst enemy was enough to drown out their praise, and the volatile McEnroe, who was seen as Borg’s greatest threat, only added to his insecurities.
Whilst LaBeouf is arguably the most notable cast member involved, he is more a secondary presence to Gudnason. The actor’s often controversial actions and outspoken nature seem a perfect fit for the similarly loathed McEnroe, and it’s clear the actor empathises with the player who sacrificed his relationships at the expense of furthering his career.
Those familiar with the outcome of the match won’t find anything overtly stimulating in the film’s final moments where the titular match is played out, technically sound as it proves to be. The epilogue that notes the following year’s match is where the real interest is regarding their rivalry, and it’s a shame that that wasn’t the game this uneven film opted to focus on.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Borg vs. McEnroe hits select cinemas tomorrow, 16th November.