Sport

Game, set, watch: Sports films for the starving superfans

The Test

The Test  

As lockdown extends, and with it, the lack of live sports, some films for the starving superfan

With every major sports event put on hold — at least for the next couple of months or so — journalists have been coming up with fun, thoughtful ways to fill the vacuum. ESPN Cricinfo, for example, has been reporting on classic matches from the past as though they were yet to happen. However, reading about it isn’t enough for the starving superfan. Here are five sports-centric films on the Internet to tide you over until normal service resumes.

The Test (Amazon Prime Video)

The regeneration of the Australian men’s cricket team is one of the great sporting redemption stories in recent years. After Steve Smith, Cameron Bancroft and David Warner were found guilty of ball-tampering during a test match against South Africa in 2018, Cricket Australia banned them for a year. Losing Smith and Warner, two of the finest players in the world, plus the psychological impact of the episode, meant that Australia kept losing for a while (at one point conceding a world-record 481 runs against England in a one-day international at Trent Bridge). The Test (which premièred last month) is the behind-the-scenes documentary of how a new coach (Justin Langer) and captain (Tim Paine) turned it all around.

Bobby Ronson

Bobby Ronson  

Bobby Robson: More than a Manager (Netflix)

Any documentary on the most beloved England football manager of all time would’ve been watched and enjoyed by fans around the globe. It helps that Bobby Robson: More than a Manager is a triumph of both style and storytelling. A marquee lineup of football stars paying tribute to the late Robson doesn’t hurt either. This is led by Jose Mourinho, the self-styled ‘Chosen One’ and the most sought-after coach in the contemporary game. The film’s real strength, however, is its willingness to break up the templates of the sports documentary and infuse a bit of cinematic flair into the proceedings (like its bold choice to open with a lengthy description of Robson’s nasal melanoma of the 90s, right before he joined Barcelona).

Borg vs McEnroe

Borg vs McEnroe  

Borg vs McEnroe (Netflix)

Before Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played that epic Wimbledon final in 2008, most tennis fans considered this 1980 final to be the greatest in the tournament’s (and, arguably, the sport’s) history. On one side, Bjorn Borg, the undisputed champion of the men’s game, armed with an irresistible combination of topspin and baseline power. On the other, John McEnroe, the fiery young upstart with a throwback serve-and-volley game and a temper for the ages. Directed by Danish filmmaker Janus Pedersen, Borg vs McEnroe (2017) isn’t just an excellent blow-by-blow narrative about the game — it is also a very well-executed character portrait of both players. Shia LaBeouf, in particular, is brilliant as the mercurial McEnroe.

Kurt Russell in Miracle

Kurt Russell in Miracle  

Miracle (YouTube)

Yes, it deals thick and fast in sporting clichés, but Gavin O’Connor’s 2004 film belongs to that endangered Hollywood species — the predictable, yet moving, studio entertainer. It is the fictionalised story of American ice hockey coach Herb Brooks and how he led a team of college amateurs to an Olympic gold medal in 1980. At the time, their victory over the Soviet Union, who were the heavily-fancied four-time champs, was dubbed the “Miracle on Ice”. Kurt Russell excels as Brooks: a complex, stubborn, charismatic man unafraid to flaunt his ruthlessness.

Senna

Senna  

Senna (YouTube)

Senna is British filmmaker Asif Kapadia’s documentary on the high-flying life and tragic death of Brazilian Formula One champion Ayrton Senna (who died in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix). It is now widely considered to be one of the finest sports documentaries of all time, tackling a difficult and controversial subject and doing it with panache. Some sequences — like the one that shows Senna’s efforts to make racing a safer sport — reverberate with Shakespearean foreshadowing, while others hit you like a gut punch. Not an easy watch, but essential viewing all the same.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 5:03:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/sports-films-to-watch-during-the-coronavirus-lockdown/article31366888.ece

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