The sight of two grown men in skimpy shorts who have worked themselves up into a sweat from repeatedly banging their balls so hard that a cry goes out for new balls whilst all the time being watched by a crowd. Thankfully it’s not one of the Editors specialist interest European Art films (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed) but the 1980 Wimbledon men’s final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. It was rightly billed as one of the centre courts greatest ever finals between a cool as ice Nordic champion who had won consecutive finals since 1976 against a hot headed American superbrat who nonetheless was supremely talented and who was a serious contender to usurp the rightly worried champion.
Featuring Shia LaBeouf as McEnroe and Sverrir Gudnason who bears a startlingly resemblance to Borg the film follows the run up to the Wimbledon final. Both are great in their roles with LaBeouf getting an opportunity to break away from his troublesome public persona albeit to play someone who did have a troublesome public persona. Like the Formula 1 racing film ‘Rush’ about the James Hunt / Nicki Lauder rivalry this too goes behind the scenes and explored the rivalry and their differing background with perhaps the biggest surprise being that despite Borg’s public persona as being emotionless and fully in control it turns out that as a teenager he was as hot headed and angry as McEnroe was an adult and it’s a credit to Borg’s trainer Lennart Bergelin , played by the great Stellan Skarsgard, that he calms him down and channels and controls his anger to such an astonishing degree that there’s no trace of his fury as an adult. The same can’t be said of any insight into McEnroe which is a small let down in what is otherwise a hugely entertaining film as little is covered as to his background beyond coming from a wealthy family and its only really his perma- sun hatted father who only occasionally features. It’s the flashbacks mainly of Borg that flesh out the film in its inevitable march towards that final.
Directed by Danish Janus Metz this is a subtitled film in part and is as much about their psychology as it is about the film. Borg was highly superstitious , (he would only take two towels to court, all his racquets had be tested by him the night before a game) McEnroe was obsessive about beating him and was likely to have been driven by pushy parents which is never really explored enough and he became something of a monster demonised by the British press especially but by the end of the film the gruelling match goes some way to humanising him. And what a final match it is with nail biting match points skilfully editing in real footage of the game with both actors who have obviously trained to the max to make their tennis as authentic as possible.
If you were not around when the final was played or forgot what the outcome was then go see what is one of the best sports films in years.
Here’s the trailer…….