DRAFT DAY Movie Review – A Sportsman’s Sports Movie
PG-13..•..109 min...•..Drama, Sport
April 11, 2014
DIRECTOR: .Ivan Reitman
WRITERS: .Rajiv Joseph & Scott Rothman
Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary,
Frank Langella, Chadwick Boseman, Ellen Burstyn,
Griffin Newman, Timothy Simons, David Ramsey,
Josh Pence, Tom Welling, Arian Foster,
Sean Combs, Terry Crews
SYNOPSIS: On the day of the NFL Draft, general manager Sonny Weaver (Costner) has the opportunity to rebuild his team when he trades for the number one pick. He must quickly decide what he’s willing to sacrifice in pursuit of perfection as the lines between his personal and professional life become blurred on a life-changing day for a few hundred young men with dreams of playing in the NFL.
Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day is an unprecedented and ambitious microcosmic look at one day in the life of a professional sports team. There aren’t too many sports movies that look at the business of professional sports from the inside out—really look, that is, at the game’s heart and soul (or lack thereof) from the front office’s point of view. Though centered around a GM’s office, Moneyball‘s story was primarily number-centric; and other sports films have provided peripheral glimpses of various business aspects—from the role of scouts (Trouble With the Curve), agents (Jerry Maguire), and coaches (Little Big League), to the player’s journey (Bull Durham, For Love of the Game), and the league functions that make it all possible (Any Given Sunday). Even fewer sports tales take place entirely within the span of one day. And rarely has someone on the business side of sports made a truly sympathetic protagonist—the character whose hopes and dreams we take as our own, and whose success we root for to the exclusion of others.
Draft Day‘s front-office story has such a protagonist in Cleveland Browns’ General Manager Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner), a man tasked with re-shaping the team’s future in the mere hours left on the play clock leading up to the NFL Draft. As if his task weren’t onerous enough, Sonny’s day is plagued by additional vexations, including the machinations of an aggressive know-it-all coach (Denis Leary), the superficial expectations of the team owner’s (Frank Langella), the league salary cap monitored by team lawyer Ali (Jennifer Garner), other teams’ GMs and the draft-day games they play, continual interruptions by rookie intern Rick (Griffin Newman), the comic stylings of war-room goofs Marx (Timothy Simons) and Thompson (David Ramsey), the theatrics of team players (Tom Welling) and potential draftees (Chadwick Boseman, Josh Pence, Arian Foster), and the zeal of a football-loving city desperate to see gridiron glory return to its home field. (Not to mention some personal drama personified by his mother Barb (Ellen Burstyn).) Perhaps Sonny’s biggest challenge, however, is that his view of draft day’s fundamental question—”What makes a draftee most valuable to the Browns?”—differs dramatically from that of the team’s coach, owner, and war room. Ultimately, Sonny must decide whether numbers tell a player’s whole story, or if the unquantifiable attribute known as “heart” is actually the sine qua non of the ideal team member.
Costner’s Sonny is an unlikely hero who, armed only with a strategic mind and passionate convictions, and facing myriad and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, must talk his way past them. As a sports film, Draft Day almost shouldn’t work…but it does—and does so quite well. Costner, ever the consummate play-maker, gives and receives strong support from Garner, Newman, Burstyn, and Boseman, each of whom have compelling subplots of their own. The film’s unique split-screen visual style puts the audience in the middle of characters’ conversations, which are typically characterized by pithy-but-heartfelt dialogue. And for a sports drama that features speaking—rather than sports—as its primary action, Draft Day nonetheless boasts a subtle suspense that befits its genre.
Chock full of sports jargon and politics, fun NFL-related cameos, and a deep-seated love of the game, Draft Day is a sportsman’s sports movie with genuine heart and a feel-good dénouement that reminds us why rooting for the underdog is a time-honored American tradition.
DRAFT DAY hits theaters nationwide on Friday, April 11.
Featured Image: © 2014 Summit Entertainment (Photo: Dale Robinette)
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