Challengers is top-level filmmaking: Film review

Challengers

Challengers hits cinemas on Friday

Warner Brothers
Lee Charlton

By Lee Charlton


Published: 24/04/2024

- 15:28

Updated: 20/05/2024

- 14:23

The film is hitting screens this Friday

If you were to enter a film knowing it centered around two male tennis players attempting to win at securing a hard-to-get girl's attraction more than their desire to win a match, you might go in with low to medium expectations.

Perhaps higher if you’re one of many enchanted by the star girl, Zendaya. However, these are just the basics. Challengers is much more than what it says on the tin.


Luca Guadagnino’s latest work is a pleasant surprise, bound to stimulate both the average movie-goer and the serious cinephiles.

Best friends, Art (Mike Faist) and Patrick (Josh O’Connor) aspire to climb the ladder of tennis with the intent to win.

While observing a match, they are engulfed by the beauty of professional tennis star, Tashi Duncan (Zendaya).

Later, they bump into her at a party, leading the pair to flirt hopelessly with the intimidating sportswoman.

It is during this attempt that Art and Patrick are introduced to the element of competition between each other, which will later crush them both.

Their efforts to impress succeed as Tashi pays the boys a visit to their twin room.

This scene is where Challengers presents its true talent and the journey it commits to taking you on.

Tashi’s seductive persuasion provokes the boys to reveal intimate details they’d perhaps not share elsewhere.

This sexual tension rises to Tashi inviting the pair to sit beside her on the bed, leading to a spellbinding playout of eroticism that is as intellectual as it is sexy.

Tashi’s mastery of sport is not restricted to hitting a ball with a racket but also to playing games with other’s emotions.

The manipulative games played between the threesome are as entertaining as watching the matches they indulge in on the court.

Challengers shows there’s much more to tennis than a racket hitting a ball. The sport is reflective of life with its harsh and honest portrayal of the brutality of competition. As Tashi says: “tennis is a relationship.”

This intriguing narrative is enhanced further in its structure as we’re thrust back and forth from the present into the past over a scattered timeline, mimicking the movement of sport.

This is where screenwriter Justin Kuritzkes's talent shines among other serious team players.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross deliver a brilliant electronic score that satisfies the auditory senses paired with the ferocious smack of the racket hitting the ball, achieved by the punchy and intense sound design.

Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s cinematography and Marco Costa’s editing are also worthy of recognition.

Challengers

Challengers hits cinemas on Friday

Warner Brothers

The on-screen talent shines as equally as the off-screen, with Zendaya's performance being a nice surprise.

This character allowed a light to shine on the heights of her capability, allowing her to blossom more than in her previous roles such as the non-complex and limiting Chani in Dune and MJ in the most recent Spiderman entries.

O’Connor kills at his determined and audacious character, taking the reward for best performance. I’d probably lean towards Kuritzkes’s screenplay for best off-screen recognition.

With all these elements syncing in harmony, Challengers proves itself to be filmmaking at top-level quality. Possibly Guadagnino’s best work. If you were considering giving this a pass, you’d be depriving yourself of excellence.

Words by Bobby Charlton.

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