Challengers | Fresh Takes

Fresh takes and film reviews from new voices in film.

Jasmine, Joe G, Oviya, Josh & Tom

26 Apr 24

Fresh Takes is a space for the latest generation of film lovers to share their views and opinions on some of the great films we are showing at Picturehouse cinemas. 

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Here are some Fresh Takes on Challengers, Luca Guadagnino's latest film starring Zendaya, Josh O'Connor and Mike Faist as a love triangle of tennis players.

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Jasmine Kaur Gregory, 20

Jasmine is a writer/director with a flair for editing, a passion for storytelling and a love of films that not only entertain, but intrigue. Find her on Instagram at @jaskfilm

Jasmine says...

Challengers is an electrifying flick from Luca Guadagnino that leaves you gasping for breath before the tennis match even begins. From killer performances to inventive cinematography, this film grabs your attention, then throws it up to serve.

It's hard to deny the mastery of filmmaking on display in this movie, especially in the tennis sequences. The cinematography is ambitious and experimental – I expect shooting it must have been a sport in itself! The film's energy never lets up, swinging from one side of the court to the other then back again, until you're left so dizzy you forget who is where (and what even is the score again?).

Performances from all three main actors are phenomenal, with chemistry so intense you could almost feel it fizzing in the air. Zendaya's Tashi Duncan in particular is so complex and unapologetic, it's refreshing to see a female character like this on the big screen. She gets under your skin, but damn, does she look good while doing it.

Ultimately, Challengers does a great job of going far past expectations made watching the trailer. It's more than a hot tennis movie: it's about the lengths you go to achieve your true passions in life. Whether that's tennis or love…you'll have to watch it yourself and find out.

Joe G, 24

I've been a film lover for as long as I can remember. I graduated from film school in 2020 and currently work full time as an Edit Assistant in creative advertising. I'll try to go to the cinema at least twice a week!

Joe says…

What a rush! Challengers delivers on its premise with a smart, sexy and sometimes nasty tennis love triangle, aced by director Luca Guadagnino and an electric cast consisting of Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor. The film achieves some compellingly crafted and suspenseful set pieces, one that sometimes drops dialogue altogether in favour of body language and facial acting. Complemented by a pulsating techno score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, it at times threatens to switch genre into a neo-noir, thriller territory.

While the frenetic pace and heavy handedness of the on- and off-court drama may not be for everyone, it's hard to ignore the surgical precision with which Challengers plays out. Not a second of interplay between the trio is wasted. Showcasing all star talent in front of and behind the camera, every ball played and every drop of sweat counts, culminating in a heart stopping final 20 minutes that left me spellbound.

I highly recommend Challengers, a thrilling tribute to the intricacies of love and loyalty, coupled with a dizzyingly playful descent into athletic egos and obsession. It's certain to have you breathless and hungry for more.

Oviya, 23

Oviya is currently studying her masters at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, is a theatre reviewer, and is utterly obsessed with the musical Newsies.

Oviya says...

Challengers is a high tension battle of wills between three characters whose messy lives play out dramatically both on and off the tennis court. The trio are deeply flawed, which makes them feel realistic and results in a compelling watch. The decisions and twists that are slowly revealed through a back and forth timeline has our hearts racing, and holding our breath in.

I'm not a big sports fan, but the movie ensures that we care for these characters – and therefore, we're interested in the actual tennis matches. Each match is so well done, and you can't tear your eyes away from it. It's a really strong and emotionally stirring film.

I particularly enjoyed the cinematography of the film, with close up shots that help create intimacy and establish the many internalised conflicting emotions of the characters. However, having the camera become the ball during a particularly high energy tennis showdown feels almost as though we were on a rollercoaster.

The chemistry and acting of the three main leads Zendaya, Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor breathes life into this world, and despite the many frustrating decisions and attitude, the acting had me rooting for the characters to win. Faced with high stakes, we are desperately invested in the film. It's a definite must watch.

Josh, 21

Avid cinephile with interests ranging from blockbusters to arthouse cinema.

Josh says...

Centred around a heated tennis final, weaving between the timeline of a three-way courtship, Luca Guadagnino's latest foray into power, sensuality and passion serves up a result that may not necessarily end up in love all for players involved.

Zendaya leads the charge as Tashi Duncan, orchestrating the inhibitions of best buddies Art and Patrick, played by Mike Faist and Josh O'Connor, respectively. The film leans heavily on the chemistry of the leads, who fuel the consistent pacing with regularly stolen looks of fervent desire while being drenched in litres of sweat. O'Connor slots into the heel role perfectly with a punch-worthy smirk, while Faist embodies the naive lover boy. Both are toyed with by a powerhouse puppet master in Zendaya (while possibly exploring a carnal connection of their own from across the net).

Sayombhu Mukdheeprom crafts beautiful frames throughout the picture, but the camera work really shines during the tennis set pieces, with inventive perspectives and suspenseful slo-mo shots. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross run an energetic score, providing a rhythmic canvas for rising tensions.

Challengers boasts a talented cast, engaging visuals and is definitely a worthwhile watch at a Picturehouse near you.

Tom, 25

Tom is a freelance film writer, voice actor and tutor, exploring fresh connections between the Classical world and cinema, and building a career in film distribution.

Tom says...

Tennis metaphors for love and relationships might feel like lazy shots — but in Challengers, they are effortless and irresistible. Justin Kuritzkes' whip-smart script, with a perfect information drip-feed and many thoughtful motifs, sets up a spellbinding rally between the characters' past and present. I couldn't look away.

Zendaya is on top form as Tashi, handling a remarkable range from vicious late teen to glossy early-thirties career mom. By her side are Mike Faist as Art, breathing both an easy confidence and quiet brooding into the screen, and a charming, devious Josh O'Connor as Patrick.

Challengers presents a much more sincere and compelling love triangle than the trailers suggest. The trio's steamy history is full of big questions as well as eye candy. What are they "challenging"? Do they want love, validation, or just a really good game? Are all those things the same? Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' soundtrack — their most exciting score since The Social Network — elevates the film in form and tone. The thumping synths transform many a scene into alluring music video, replete with slow-mo dripping sweat, blue steel stares, and a pinch of '80s throwback.

Every match has to end, and the film veers close to overlong. But it's the right kind of heady indulgence that will keep your eye on the ball throughout. What a thrill.

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