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Boom! Boom! The World vs Boris Becker (Part 2) review – Alex Gibney plays a very long game | Movies

It is a pleasure, as well as a relief, to be able now to see the second part of Alex Gibney’s documentary about the disgraced German tennis legend who astonished the sports world by winning the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 1985 at just 17, and has wound up in middle age going to prison in the UK for hiding assets after bankruptcy.

Very unfortunately and confusingly, the Berlin film festival showed just the first half of this Apple TV+ documentary (like showing half a movie) – an even more perplexing decision given that the festival showed Charles Ferguson’s Watergate documentary in its four-hour entirety in 2019 and all 252 minutes of Nanette Burstein’s Hillary Clinton documentary in 2020. And what’s more, the film’s distributor appeared not to ensure that this single episode was clearly billed as part one of a bigger production. It’s an object lesson in the dangers of putting a slice of streaming TV content into a film festival.

But at all events, this second part (which Berlin is not screening) has put to rest my structural criticisms. This new episode does indeed take a closer look at Boris’s personal life: the racism he and his wife experienced from the German and British press when he married a woman of colour, Barbara Feltus, and his extramarital shenanigans – the so-called “broom closet” one-night-stand incident at London’s Nobu restaurant (though actually it was a small office). We hear in entertaining detail about Boris’s later increasing reliance on cunning and gamesmanship to win matches against younger opponents, and Gibney amusingly shows that he used very similar mind-game tactics in court against his wife’s lawyer when it came to divorce.

And then there is the grim finale of Boris Becker’s imprisonment, all the more extraordinary given that he failed to learn his lesson after being fined by the German tax authorities 20 years before: a story of hubris, financial naivety and quite a bit of arrogance. The film shows that Becker’s undoubted raconteur charm does not entirely conceal that arrogance.

I have to say that some of my reservations about the redundant and slightly tedious material stand: all the history of his career from the mid-80s to the early 90s at the end of part one is a bit repetitive, and the story in part two of how he coached Novak Djokovic isn’t gripping considering that the audience is inevitably on tenterhooks waiting for the details of his criminality. I couldn’t help thinking that this could have been slimmed down into a single, chunky, satisfying two-hour-plus documentary. But I am glad now to have got the whole picture: the most spectacular rise and fall in modern sports history.

Boom! Boom! The World vs Boris Becker will screen on Apple TV+ later this year.

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Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash