Challengers | Review by: Benjamin Garrett

Challengers is so much more than your average tennis movie. This movie dials the sexuality up to eleven, taking a two way sport and turning it into a steamy three way love affair. Director Luca Guadagnino brings the heat on and off the court. You might need a cold shower after watching this one. 

Told across the span of 13 years, the film follows a trio of tennis players, and the complicated love triangle they form. Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor play Art and Patrick - two best friends vying over the affections of promising young tennis star Tashi - played by Zendaya. The story is told in a non-linear fashion, flipping between various points in their personal lives and professional careers. 

This movie instantly creates spectacular tension, and it’s cranked even higher as we’re given more context on these three characters. The non-linear approach to storytelling mirrors the back and forth volleys of a tennis match, elevating the film in a big way. Had the story been told from past to present, it would kill so much of the sexual energy and suspense of not knowing what’s already happened between these three. Jumping between various years gives us small bites of the big picture, leaving us begging for the final outcome by the time the heated final moments come around. 

Guadagnino makes a number of bold directorial choices here, and while not all are effective, I admire the ambition. There’s enough slow motion to make you think you’re watching the Snyder cut, and while it’s a little overdone, it’s used to capture the intense emotions in what would otherwise be a fleeting moment. The POV shots border on self indulgence, but damn if they didn’t add a pop of visual flair and excitement to the already thrilling matches. I absolutely love the way Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ thumping techno score highlights the parallel between tennis matches and heated verbal exchanges. Whether the game is physical or mental, they’re always trying to outmanoeuvre each other. 

The collective chemistry between Faist, O’Connor and Zendaya is electric. Whether it’s two of them sharing a scene or all three, the shifting dynamic of their triangle is always tantalizing. There’s constant mental manipulation amongst them, and the resulting tensions seep onto the court, making every match an extension of their sexual relationship. All three performances allow you to feel every emotion these characters have for one another - be it love, envy, lust or hate. 

Game. Set. Match. Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers radiates sexual energy, transcending sports movie conventions for something a little deeper and a lot spicier. A trio of stellar performances and a non linear approach to storytelling make for a cinematic grand slam you won’t want to miss. 


Review by: Benjamin Garrett


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