Borg vs McEnroe, on Amazon Prime, tells the true story of the legendary rivalry between Björn Borg and John McEnroe. Arguably both are two of the greatest tennis players of all time however they were polar opposites in how they approached and played their games. Borg had dominated the world of tennis. Throughout the seventies he smashed records and some even still stand today. He was a perfectionist who played the game in a respectful way and always displayed sporting etiquette. His opponents even gave him the nickname the ‘Ice Man'.
John McEnroe was more of a rock star type. He was volatile and confrontational but was undoubtedly incredibly gifted. However, this was all too often overshadowed by his wild antics on and off the court. McEnroe's fiery nature and Borg's ice-like attitude came to a head in a true battle of fire and ice in the 1980 Wimbledon men's finals.
Borg vs McEnroe is just one of a number of films that re-create classic sporting rivalries. Ron Howard's, Rush (review here) focused on the rivalry between Nikki Lauda and James Hunt. That particular film did incredibly well at the box office and picked up a number of awards. Borg vs McEnroe is clearly trying to pick up some of this success using a similar formula. Unfortunately is failed epically in the box office which is a huge shame because this film delivers in so many ways.
Visually this film is fantastic. The camera work is incredibly authentic with an overly saturated and faded look that is representative of the actual footage. In fact, the whole film is beautifully detailed throwing the audience right back to this period in time. Janus Metz Pederson did a great job on his directorial debut. With a great script we get an intimate view of the struggles faced by both Borg and McEnroe at the time. Both are fighting for perfection and trying to live up to huge expectations.
But what really is astonishing, is the performances of both lead actors. Shia LeBeouf captures McEnroe's character amazingly. He struts around like a spoilt teenager and displays a commitment to the role that becomes a real showpiece of his raw talent. Sverrir Gudnason is nothing short of incredible playing Borg. The transformation into this role is uncanny and his physical resemblance to Bjorn Borg sucks you straight in. But he also provides a powerful performance of a sporting legend who battled with himself internally. One who is in constant pursuit of total perfection.
I remember the build-up to this showdown and watching the tennis match on the TV with my family. Being carried right back to these memories was wonderful. The tension involved in this epic final, which has been quoted as ‘the best match in history' is captured perfectly. But the revealing nature of both characters throughout the film is fascinating. The focus placed on how these men became lifelong friends with great admiration for each other was the perfect way to close the story. If you are a fan of sporting movies, then you will really enjoy this movie. A must watch movie for all tennis fans.