1st pick drama
[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00KVFHBP6][/pullquote] Eschewing the traditional sports film format, Draft Day directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Kevin Costner follows the backstage dealings of an NFL franchise before the annual draft. Since Moneyball appeared on the scene, the necessities of sports film-making have changed, meaning that the politics of management are now every bit as dramatic as the action taking place on the field.
General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) finds himself offered the number 1 draft pick on draft day. While trying to deal with the recent death of his father, himself an iconic man in Cleveland Browns history, Sonny must manage an outspoken head coach (Dennis Leary), a secret relationship with the team financial administrator (Jennifer Garner) and an egotistical franchise owner (Frank Langella). As the clock ticks down, his deal seems more and more unpopular and inpractical leading him to consider taking some bold moves to save his job, his team and the important relationships in his life.
The premise of an old and unpopular general manager trying to establish himself as a hero to the people from under the shadow of his iconic father provides plenty of scope for dramatic purpose. In Costner’s capable hands, the potentially sullen and grumpy role of Sonny Weaver Jr. is transformed into a hero in a suit. It’s the sort of management that would provide the mythological basis to another film, but is presented as a story of the here and now. Even more incredible, in an instance of art-imitating-life the Cleveland Browns actually participated in a draft trading that proved more exciting than the fictionlised events in Draft Day.
The film does drift into sentimentality at times, which isn’t surprising from the man behind Dave, Junior and Ghostbusters II, but Reitman proves more than capable of telling a compelling story on screen. To call it a workmanlike project would be doing it a disservice, but there is a touch of old school work at play. The camera does exactly what you’d expect, with the only neat additions being the city overviews that highlight the teams involved.
Aside from the slow-build drama and interconnected relationships, Draft Day’s finest moment is its conclusion. The tension is amped up and when we reach the eponymous moment itself, everything is in place for some very tense last minute discussions and plenty of fist-pumping solutions.