CHALLENGERS Delivers A Riveting Profile Of Professional Athletes

It takes a particular mind to succeed in the world of professional sports. This level of success demands a specific drive, confidence/arrogance, and absolute love for the game one is playing. This mindset does have its disadvantages and repercussions when applied to everyday life, particularly love, sex, and romance. These are the exciting and powerful themes that filmmaker Luca Guadagnino delves into with his new film, Challengers.

The movie follows the careers of three different but gifted tennis players Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor), and Art Donaldson (Mike Faist). Guadagnino takes a non-linear approach to the story by jumping back and forth in time. The overall experience reveals the lives and careers of these eventual tennis stars as they take their approaches to their jobs and cross paths multiple times. Anyone who has seen the trailers should know that a love triangle exists among the three, and this dynamic plays an essential role in how their relationships change over time.

I would rather keep my synopsis obscure because this approach to the movie makes the experience more engaging and exciting. I will say that the trailer gives the impression that this movie is a softcore porn flick. That is not at all the case. Yes, there is some sexuality here, but it is handled in ways that are not overly gratuitous. Any “romance” or sexual scenes are intended to reflect the characters’ minds and help enrich their development.

Written by Justin Kuritzkes, the script does an exceptional job of developing these characters throughout their journey. The film does run a little long, but I can’t say that I was often bored with what happens. As much character study occurs, this movie is still rooted in the world of sports and delivers when it comes to tennis matches.

I was impressed (as I usually am) with Guadagnino’s direction. The cinematography and editing make for some very thrilling tennis matches. Enriching the entire experience is the incredible electronic score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I swear that I could still hear the score’s infectious and driving beats the day after the screening.

Of course, character studies cannot be fully realized without talented actors in the roles. I was tremendously impressed with Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist’s dramatic turns. Every one of these actors brings their A-game to this movie and makes the experience all the more riveting.

Challengers is a great sports film, and I highly recommend it for theatrical enjoyment. The mix of the visuals and the incredible score would be best experienced in a cinema.

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