Review: Challengers

Review: Challengers

Challengers (2024)
R  ‧ Sports/Romance ‧ 2 Hours 11 Minutes
Written by Justin Kuritzkes
Directed by Luca Guadagnino


Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist.


(In their own words). Tashi, a tennis player turned coach, has transformed her husband from a mediocre player into a world-famous grand slam champion. To jolt him out of his recent losing streak, she makes him play a challenger event — close to the lowest level of tournament on the pro tour. Tensions soon run high when he finds himself standing across the net from the once-promising, now burnt-out Patrick, his former best friend, and Tashi’s former boyfriend.


The BEST things about the film

1. Narrative Structure: The non-linear storytelling approach is one of the film’s strongest aspects. This method isn’t just for show—it crafts a more intricate and engaging viewer experience, allowing the audience to piece together the characters’ pasts and present, thereby deepening the emotional and psychological complexity of the narrative. It helps frame the personal histories and motivations in a way that a linear narrative might not manage as effectively.

2. Cinematography and Visual Style: The film employs bold and experimental cinematography that sets it apart. Particularly notable is the use of the tennis ball POV shots during match scenes, which not only intensify the gameplay but also metaphorically represent the back-and-forth dynamics of the characters’ relationships. This creative decision enhances the immersive quality of the film, making the tennis matches not just a sport to be watched but a lens through which interpersonal conflicts are explored.

3. Acting: Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist deliver phenomenal performances. Zendaya, in particular, should be praised for her nuanced portrayal of Tashi, who transitions from a tennis prodigy to a coach, grappling with her own past glories and current challenges. Her ability to convey deep emotional undercurrents—her passion for tennis, her complex relationships, and her own regrets and aspirations—anchors the film. O’Connor and Faist also deliver compelling performances, adding to the film’s emotional depth.

4. Engagement and Pacing: Despite its runtime of over two hours, the film does not feel its length, indicating effective pacing and engagement. This aspect is crucial in maintaining audience interest and speaks to the director’s skill in crafting a narrative that is both absorbing and brisk, keeping viewers hooked from start to finish.


The WORST things about the Film

1. Frustrating Character Choices: Some characters in the film make decisions that could potentially frustrate or perplex viewers. While integral to the plot and character development, these choices might not align with what the audience feels would be the ‘right’ or expected decisions. This can lead to dissatisfaction or disconnect with the characters, potentially impacting the viewer’s overall engagement with the story. However, it’s important to note that these choices also add to the realism and complexity of the narrative, as real-life decisions and relationships are often messy and challenging.

2. Polarizing Cinematography: The film employs innovative cinematography techniques, including very close-up shots and slow-motion sequences that might not appeal to everyone. Specifically, using the camera point of view from a tennis ball, could be distracting or disorienting for some audience members. While these techniques are designed to enhance the immersive experience and reflect the characters’ psychological and emotional states, they risk being perceived as overly stylized or gimmicky, potentially pulling some viewers out of the narrative rather than drawing them deeper in.

3. Specific Taste Required: The narrative and visual style of “Challengers” demands a certain appreciation for artistic filmmaking and a tolerance for non-traditional storytelling methods. Audiences looking for a straightforward sports drama might find the film’s approach too unconventional or challenging, which could limit its appeal to a broader audience.


The film employs a daring approach to its cinematography and narrative structure that sets it apart from typical sports dramas. It challenges traditional storytelling norms in the sports genre, making it a topic of interest for discussions on film technique and character development.


  1. The Importance of Passion for Success: The film illustrates how essential genuine passion and love for what you do are for achieving success. This theme is evident in the portrayal of Tashi’s character, whose deep love for tennis drives her and highlights the contrast with characters who may lack the same level of dedication. This passion is shown to be a crucial factor in overcoming obstacles and achieving personal and professional goals.
  2. The Complexity of Relationships and Growth: “Challengers” delves into how personal relationships can profoundly impact an individual’s growth and success. The characters’ interactions and history demonstrate that our connections with others can both challenge and propel us forward. The film suggests that navigating these relationships with honesty and resilience is key to personal development and fulfillment.


Yes, “Challengers” is rewatchable. The layered narrative and intricate character dynamics make it a film that could offer new insights on subsequent viewings. The technical aspects of the film, like its cinematography, also make it worth revisiting to appreciate the artistic choices more fully.


“Challengers” delivers a potent mix of intense sports action and deep personal drama, elevated by standout performances from Zendaya, Josh O’Connor, and Mike Faist. Luca Guadagnino’s daring narrative techniques and bold cinematography turn this tennis story into a compelling exploration of ambition, love, and the personal costs of greatness. Engaging, emotionally charged, and visually inventive, it’s a film that redefines the boundaries of sports cinema.


My 3L system gives me the choice to Love It, Like It, or Lose It. 

For “Challengers,” I definitely “Love It.” It’s a film that entertains and engages on an intellectual and emotional level, prompting reflection and discussion.





This post was written by
When he’s not reviewing films or interviewing people for the Black & A Half podcast, Silas Lindenstein can be found in the greater metro Seattle, WA working as a real estate agent helping people buy and sell homes, or performing stand up comedy to fellow nerds. He has a wife and three children and desperately wants to learn to make the perfect homemade pizza.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *