Challengers Film Review

'Challengers'

Game. Set. Match. Zendaya. This is tennis. But not as you’ve seen it before.


It’s blood, sweat, tears, sex, techno and full-frontal male nudity. Questions around sexuality, relationships, situationships and the nature of sport itself are asked and answered. The film veers in and out of homoeroticism as the love triangle tours between the male and female dynamic more than a grand slam tournament.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, the film runs for more than two hours with, I’m guessing, about 30 minutes of this dedicated to slow-motion. I’m not complaining, the cinematography and shot selection in the film really is exquisite, with exceptional acting and editing. The film has a rock star, hot, young and horny vibe to it – which isn’t really surprising given Guadagnino’s other offerings; 'Call Me By Your Name' in particular. Guadagnino has expertly crafted the thread through the needle and delivered a film worthy of his wheelhouse.

Zendaya plays the cutthroat Tashi Duncan driven, narcissistic, manipulative and beautiful. Filling out the menage are Patrick played by Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist who plays Art. All three deliver outstanding performances with the story primarily about the relationship between them. 'Challengers' looks at 13 years, from talented teenagers to complex adults, and explores the rise and fall and rise again with sex, love, betrayal and everything else in between with some really interesting themes explored, such as loss of dreams and choices.


The score delivers driving high energy techno that’s more rave than day festival, with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross giving the entire piece a hectic, driving force. The score cleverly ties the past and present together with an end scene that has to be believed to be seen. Without giving it away, I have to say, I have a whole new respect for a tennis ball.

This isn’t a sport film, it’s not even a blockbuster, it gives strong solid indie art house vibes and brings a whole new meaning to the word 'art'. This is filmmaking at its best. Fun. Boundary breaking. A little uncomfortable. Questions asked. High stakes at all times with the whole gamut of human evolution on display – from betrayal, to love, to jealousy, failure and more.

Zendaya delivers 'ruthless bitch' to perfection, and looks incredible doing it. The scenes in which she plays tennis are some of the best, with a serve to rival the best.

This is gladiatorial filmmaking, on and off the court with the gladiators figuring out how to be human. A beautiful film from Guadagnino and definitely worth the ticket price to the cinema to see this on the big screen, if not for those tennis scenes alone.

★★★★☆

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