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Challengers review – An ace for Luca Guadagnino

Directed by Luca Guadagnino. The film stars Zendaya, Mike Faist & Josh O’Connor.

Luca Guadagnino has built a reputation as a modern auteur with a blend of genres from the
summer romance of the acclaimed Call Me By Your Name to his remake of the classic
Horror Suspiria. His latest Challengers sees him working with three of cinema’s hottest rising
stars in the shape of Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O’Connor in a love-triangle built around
the world of Tennis. This is the perfect advert for both stars and the Director, with the trio
showing their promise in a fiery, cauldron atmosphere, while Guadagnino shows plenty of
flair and style, making every point a tense affair while the chemistry between the actors
The central premise has Faists’s Art and O’Connor’s Patrick, college teammates and rivals
vying for the attention of Zendaya’s Tashi, a darling of the junior circuit. They both become
involved with her in the interweaving years with the main affair being a match between
Patrick and Art late in their careers which have taken opposite directions, yet destiny finds
them across the net from each other, who will break first?
It is a steamy, often exhilarating film that jumps between timeframes multiple times, forcing
the audience to keep up. Almost all the attention is placed on our central trio and how their
relationships have evolved in the years from their first meeting and the clear impact the
results of each has on the rest. It shows how taxing professional sport can be at the elite
level with the weight of expectation while also showing how easily friendships can be
irreparably damaged.
One of the true strengths of Challengers is its score from the ever-reliable Trent Reznor and
Atticus Ross, it feels like a lost lovechild from Gorgio Moroder at his peak, infused with 90s
rave from the likes of Underworld and The Chemical Brothers. On its own this score would
fill a dancefloor, its pace and beat are relentless, adding extra tension and meaning to each
The three leads are all up to the challenge with Zendaya delivering some of her more
impressive work to date, showing she is up to the task of leading a film of this sort, with the
film depending on the chemistry of its leads, there is no weak link. O’Connor and Faist
capture both the initial camaraderie of Patrick and Art, that dissolves gradually. Art is more
restrained and quiet while Patrick has a more volatile and brash side to him. Zendaya
meanwhile excels as an almost femme fatale and complex character determined to prove
herself and keep links to tennis after her promising career is derailed by injury.
Challengers captures a Director and cast at the top of their game, if at times overindulgent
and verging on melodrama, with this much style, charisma and star power, it is hard not to
be swept along by its ferocity and the speed of its swings. It is a winner in most senses and
another ace for its acclaimed director.

Challengers review – An ace for Luca Guadagnino

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