“Match Point” is one of Allen’s strongest films this decade, although admittedly this current one hasn’t been as good to him as the ’90s. With some recollection of “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” this dark tale of societal comfort combines Allen’s witty writing with the confusion and distress of making major life decisions.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Chris Wilton, a professional Irish tennis player who wasn’t quite talented enough to compete with the best of them and so quit and went to work at a country club in London. There he becomes friends with one of his students, a wealthy socialite named Tom (Matthew Goode) who invites him to the Opera, then to the country, with his family. There, he works up a romance with Tom‘s sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). At the same time he meets and becomes infatuated with Tom’s fiancée, an aspiring American actress named Nola (Scarlett Johansson), whom he meets at a table tennis room in a scene of “Double Indemnity”-style innuendo.
In his first film shot in London, Allen and cinematographer Remi Adefarasin photograph the city beautifully as the story quietly builds up tension. The family likes Chris, and starts grooming him for marriage with Chloe, who can’t wait to start a family. Meanwhile, however, his interest in Nola builds and he has trouble deciding between his two possible lives.
A lot of life depends on luck, Meyers narrates over a beautiful opening shot of balls whirling over a tennis net until one hits the net and freeze frames while Meyers describes how the ball could fall back and you lose, or go over and you win. Chris’s life is just as controlled by his cloudy desires as it is by chance encounters and the sequence of events in his life and those around him. And Allen covers it all with intelligent dialogue and unexpected moments of clever visual storytelling.