Luca Guadagnino - Challengers (2024), 5/10

Challengers feels more like a vehicle for its soundtrack and indulgent, romantic visuals than an actual film of substance through most of its run time. It does, however, present a compelling illustration of power, lust, and restraint juxtaposed against genuine love. The love triangle, or what initially presents itself as a love triangle anyway, is frustrating and meritless for most of the story up until the conclusion. The ending itself is actually oddly gratifying despite the questionable twists and turns before reaching such a climactic moment. The plot is pretty simple, albeit compelling in moments, and the characters are largely predictable. This is not a completely detrimental set of qualities, but when combined with shots that take minutes longer than they should, and some tragically dull and predictable dialogue, it becomes tiresome pretty quickly. Some shots are so excruciatingly long that they become confusing and completely stop any momentum the film has been working hard to conjure up. Many head-scratching moments where we are likely thinking “What is the point of this scene at all?” or at least “Where is this going?”, only to be left without a resolution of any kind. Still, the story does set up some good moments that lean into important topics such as power, lust, love, and repression. Unfortunately, when you take a step back and really look critically at the bigger picture, the film gradually reveals itself to be a smattering of disjointed moments that do not say what really needs to be said, a very important and potentially hopeful message is overlooked, at least until it has wasted the majority of its run time and fostered some very misguided messages. The acting is mostly great, Zendaya does a decent job, O’Conner occupies some of the same space, yet Faist really shines in most of the film. The humor is hit or miss, mostly miss, but again some fragmented scenes in isolation can be decently funny. For fans of sports drama or the contemporary focus on romantic tension this will be a greatly enjoyable experience, for anyone else just expect a mixed bag and it will still present as a decently enjoyable film that offers a brief and immediately graspable look at desire and manipulation.