The machine-like Bjorn Borg takes to the tennis court to battle the wildly impulsive John McEnroe in the newest trailer for Borg vs McEnroe, the sports biopic starring Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason, Stellan Skarsgard and Tuva Novotny. The film is slated to open the Toronto International Film Festival in September before releasing internationally, with a United States release date still to be determined.
Borg vs McEnroe (alternately known as Borg/McEnroe) chronicles the epic tennis rivalry between the Swedish Borg (Gudnason) and the American McEnroe (LaBeouf), two players whose contrasting on-court styles and off-court personalities made them perfect opponents especially in the eyes of the media. Borg and McEnroe’s rivalry reached a pair of epic climaxes in their showdowns in the Men’s Finals at Wimbledon in 1980 and 1981, the two matches that provide the dramatic heart for the film.
The newest trailer for Borg vs McEnroe from Curzon Artifical Eye plays up the contrast between the two lead characters’ personalities, Borg the impersonal perfectionist who treats his body like a temple and McEnroe the naturally-talented wild card whose training regimen includes lots of booze. The trailer also focuses on how the media seized on this contrast to build a narrative, selling the men’s Wimbledon showdowns as clashes of personalities as much as battles between differing tennis styles.
It’s hard to watch the clips of Gudnason as the cold, robotic Borg and LaBeouf as the down-to-earth McEnroe and not think of Ivan Drago and Rocky in Rocky IV. Of course in Rocky IV the showdown between Drago and Rocky was sold as a clash between ideologies and was ultimately a cartoonish demonstration of American exceptionalism, and while that’s not exactly where Borg vs McEnroe is trying to go, there’s still a sense that Borg embodies a certain de-humanized, overly-scientific approach to sport while McEnroe is the earthier and more relatable (and hence more “American“) figure. Certainly, the media played it up that way in the early ’80s, and the movie appears to address how both men struggled to escape that press-fueled perception of them.
The movie’s huge selling-point, of course, is Shia LaBeouf’s performance as McEnroe the out-of-control crazy man with the wild mane of hair and hard-charging lifestyle. Seeing LaBeouf throwing temper tantrums on the court and throwing back shots in the club, conjures up images of the actor’s own battles with his personal demons. This could be seen as perfect casting, but it could also be seen as one that blurs the line between actor and role a little too much.
Thus far, Borg vs McEnroe looks like a very detailed period film centered around an intriguing clash of personalities. The performances look to be solid, but whether the film succeeds may ultimately ride on whether director Janus Metz has succeeded in rendering the tennis scenes in a way that makes them pay off dramatically without resorting to tired sports-movie cliches.
Source: Curzon Artificial Eye
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