Genre: Drama, Sport
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Starring: Kevin Costner, Chadwick Boseman, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella
The NFL has had a bad run in the press of late. With all the controversy and player scandals casting a dark shadow over the all American sport of sports, Ivan Reitman attempts to fashion a film that reminds fans exactly why they’re fans in the first place. From the moment the camera swoons itself over the grand stadiums in the opening shots, like they were monuments of Rome itself, you know what kind of story you’re getting: a true all-American tale.
Costner plays Sonny Weaver Jr., general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a man going through the most intense 24 hours of his life. Under pressure from the team’s owner (an always shaded Frank Langella), the fans and everyone else, Sonny has to configure the best team possible during the NFL’s iconic draft day, in which NFL teams take their pick of the best young college players from all over the country. Not to mention the fact his accountant/girlfriend (an undervalued Jennifer Garner) is pregnant. Oh, and his father has just died.
Taking its cue from Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, this is a sport movie with little actual sport going on. Instead, it’s a film where the actual “playing” happens in the back rooms and offices behind closed doors, as Costner’s Weaver and his rival general managers duke it out over terse phone calls. Reitman does his best to make these phone calls visually interesting, with uses of split screens and whatnot, but ultimately, for a visual medium, it comes across as a tired spin on an old cliché.
This being a sports movie, Weaver is very much an underdog. He’s a man whose personal and professional life hang in the balance and, while many non-NFL fans may find themselves lost among the jargon and football terminology, it’s easy to become swept up in the flow of Sonny’s desire to build the team that he’s always wanted to build.
Costner commits himself admirably, his stony-edged and weathered face conveying a commanding presence, yet burdened by the pressures of his job and the looming shadow of his deceased father. The supporting cast commit themselves well with what they have to work with, yet they feel a little underused, with very little to do besides react to Costner’s decisions by either questioning or berating him.
While it’s never as compelling or as interesting as other movies in its field, Draft Day does enough with its simple underdog story that it should please fans of the sport-drama genre.