Borg vs McEnroe

The world of tennis may be an enigma to many, but Wimbledon has established itself as the premier event in this world of rackets, balls and some of the most unique personalities in the sport. For tennis fans, these grass courts in England are the pinnacle of the game and have come to define the game.

On these famed courts, there are few more recognisable names than Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf). This rivalry is legendary because of their divergent personalities and playing styles, while playing some of the best matches in tennis history. Despite people’s opinions of these men, they were tremendous players who delivered some of the most significant moments in modern tennis. It was the 1980 Wimbledon men’s singles final that gave them the first moment they would play against one another and it has come to be labelled as the greatest tennis match ever played.

This internationally produced film shows these two athletes and what led to this epic game on the grass courts in Charing Cross. Splicing together the moments during the tournament with the lesser known past of both men and what led them to become sporting legends. Showing the realities of the stress experienced by the individual players and the mental toughness that defines their abilities to excel in this gentlemen’s game. Danish director Janus Metz (Armadillo) manages to keep the multi-language nature of the sport a part of the film without losing the audience’s attention. The subtitles add to the journey and do not distract from the sensational nature of the narrative.

Borg vs. McEnroe is a film for fans of the sport or those who are fascinated by the history of the game. The performances of the central cast are outstanding and the resemblance of Gudnason and LaBeouf make the whole experience even more intriguing and believable. Even the ingenious choice of the much maligned, yet talented Shia LaBeouf playing his alter-ego on the tennis court does add to the dramatic tension.
There is enough emotional intrigue to meet the needs of those who are not as interested in tennis, but it is the excellence in the game that is the driving force behind this project. Metz’s creation deserves consideration as one of the best sport stories portrayed on the big screen. The beauty and majesty of this amazing battle played on one of the most significant athletic stages make for high drama. Complemented by the back stories of these flawed, but talented men provide a reason for anyone to join them court-side to see history unfold before their eyes.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

Sport stories like Borg vs. McEnroe have fascinated audiences throughout history, because they depict the inside story behind a seminal event in the sporting past. The story may tap into a deep inner desire to do something extraordinary with our lives or it allows people to connect with sporting legends who have influenced their lives.

Most of us will never have our lives become the focus of books, news articles or movies. Does that mean that our lives mean any less to the world than that of Bjorn Borg or John McEnroe? Not according to the Bible, in Psalm 139 it states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God which moves our lives from ordinary to extraordinary. Not because of who we are, but because of who created us. Game – Set – Match!

Questions

1. What is the value of the human spirit? (Proverbs 20:27, Romans 8:16)

2. Should we pursue our dreams? (Proverbs 16:3, Jeremiah 29:11)

3. What should we do in difficult times? (John 16:33, Philippians 4:6-7)

Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.