Sexy, Tense ‘Challengers’ Serves an Ace (Review)

by | Apr 26, 2024


Director Luca Guadagnino is back on top of his game with this intoxicating love triangle story. 

Whether it’s a film or sporting event, when a piece of entertainment is able to sink its teeth in you from the get-go and not let go until it’s over, it can make for some of the most memorable moments (or complete opposite if your sports team suffers a tough loss) in that particular realm. On top of that, you begin to feel a bit of an adrenaline rush, as you anticipate the outcome. This is exactly how Challengers presents itself from the moment we first lay eyes on the tennis court. The film’s score begins to pump. An exciting game is about to begin. We see who the competitors are. And then we zoom in on the lead character, played by Zendaya, at center court (literally) preparing to watch the match. We don’t know what we are about to watch, but we’re already engrossed and want to know what happens on and off the field of play for all three characters presented. 

Challengers follows a love triangle between Tashi Duncan (Zendaya), a former tennis prodigy whose career was halted by a devastating injury, and two men that are current tennis professionals: Art Donaldson (Mike Faist), Ducan’s husband looking for a career comeback, and Patrick Zwig (Josh O’Connor), Duncan’s former lover. After being best friends before things went bad, Art and Patrick cross paths once again at a tournament, where the stakes are high for their careers with Tashi at the center of it all as the master manipulator. 

Like an actual game of tennis, the back and forth in all facets of this film, from the flashbacks to the current tournament Art and Patrick are participating in, never cease to keep you on edge. Whether it’s a twist or a callback from the past that presents itself in the current timeline, Challengers’ twists and turns combined with the sexiness of its story serve up an indisputably entertaining film. It also helps that the film is accompanied by exceptional cinematography from Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and a pulsating score from Trent Reznor and Atticus – who deliver arguably their best film score since 2010’s The Social Network

Zendaya has been on the up and up for the past few years, but her performance in Challengers affirms her chances of becoming a name people go to the movies specifically to see. In a time where Hollywood is in desperate need of new stars that get people out to the movie theaters, Zendaya’s breakthrough performance in Challengers is impossible to ignore, considering how alluring it is. Taking the reins of her role on a character arc we’re not exactly sure where it will head by the time the credits roll, it’s the type of performance that likely will carry her name into the awards conversation later this year and rightfully so. It also helps that Zendaya is accompanied by Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist as the other two leads of the film, as they also give career-best performances; it also helps that they all have great chemistry together. 

In a time when there aren’t as many films released due to a number of factors, Challengers is a can’t miss experience in theaters (and in IMAX if it’s playing in that format in your area). Easily Luca Guadagnino’s best film since Call Me By Your Name, you’ll be talking about this romance sports film long after it ends. And whether it’s a date night or just a night out at the movies, there will be no fault in seeing one of the best films of the year so far in a theater. 


RATING: ★★★★1/2

(out of five stars)