Review: ‘Challengers’ is a certified ace

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Bella Whitmore | Intern

Luca Guadagnino is back and better than ever with another sensual, romantic drama about the tumultuous love triangle between a tennis prodigy, her pro-athlete husband and her ex-boyfriend, who also happens to be, you guessed it, a tennis player.

The plot of “Challengers” is very nonlinear, as it begins in the present day while intermittently flashing back to different points in the characters’ past in order to explain what leads up to the final match depicted in the opening scene.

Nonlinear storytelling may be a turnoff to some, including myself, but in this case, it works so well. Watching the tension and storylines build up to the final climactic moment and piecing together all the details — I would give anything to experience it again for the first time.

When it comes to the soundtrack of the film, I firmly believe it could not get any better than what Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross of Nine Inch Nails created.

The soundtrack is composed of a series of funky, electronic beats that almost mirror the way tennis balls are hit throughout the movie. The songs are so unique and fun, and the only comparison I can muster up would be the music played in Hollister in the early 2000s, except about 100 times better.

There is no other soundtrack that will make you want to want to work hard and look good while doing it, which is precisely why I am listening to it as I write this.

The casting and acting performances in “Challengers” are also nothing short of perfection. The world has always been aware of Zendaya’s talent and acting skills, but her role as the intense and morally ambiguous Tashi Duncan in this film only helps to solidify her as a versatile actor and silence anyone attempting to argue anything different.

Moreover, to complete the love triangle, the film features Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor as Art Donaldson and Patrick Zweig, the best-friends-turned-enemies. Faist has slowly been making a name for himself and taking on more serious roles since straying away from his Broadway roots. O’Connor has been featured in numerous hit TV shows such as “Peaky Blinders” and “The Crown,” but never a film of this caliber.

Both deliver incredible and compelling performances that create almost tangible tension between the two while exploring the fine line between desire and hate in their complex relationship.

Guadagnino’s past filmmaking with indie staples such as “Call Me by Your Name” and “Bones and All” feature incredible cinematography, from the lively and energetic color palettes, to the creative and well thought out camera angles, to the daring exploration into desire and tension through different mediums. “Challengers” does a phenomenal job of carrying this cinematic torch.

“Challengers” almost demands that you pay attention to its beauty and admire the satisfying color palettes and innovative directorial techniques. One scene even features a camera attached to a tennis ball. How could it get more immersive than that?

Speaking of tennis — the way Guadagnino explores sex and intimacy through tennis matches is fascinating. Tennis is the medium in which the characters communicate and express their true feelings, whether it’s hatred, desire, fear or deception. It is simply beautiful filmmaking.

So, if you’re tired of the typical sports movie, this one’s for you. You’ll never be able to view tennis the same way.