24th Jan2015

‘Draft Day’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary, Sean Combs, Frank Langella, Sam Elliot, Rosanna Arquette, Terry Crews, Tom Welling, Ellen Burstyn | Written by Scott Rothman, Rajiv Joseph | Directed by Ivan Reitman

Draft-Day

OK, so it’s fair to say I’m not a sports guy. I hated playing sports in high school, I don’t watch sports on TV (well apart from the odd Superbowl on Channel 4 back when I was a teenager) and I certainly would never choose to watch sports over a movie. But what about sports movies? I’m a sucker for them! Of course it helped that I had a parent who loved the feel-good underdog stories that many a sports flick was essentially built around. Thanks to my mum I grew up watching sports movies such as Major League, Lucas, Field of Dreams, Hoosiers, The Mighty Ducks and many more…

But in recent years it’s safe to say I’ve fallen out of love with the genre. Maybe it’s the saccharine-filled family-friendly films that have been churned out by the studios, hoping that their tale of the under-dog would come out on top. Or maybe it’s the way in which Hollywood has turned the genre into a glorified advert for past sport successes – successes that the non-sports fan couldn’t connect with on any level (and at the same time often focusing heavily on the technicalities of the sport, rather than the story). Or maybe its that I just haven’t given modern sports films a chance? Whatever the reason its been a good few years since I’ve really enjoyed a sports film.

And I really enjoyed Draft Day.

Not being an American Football fan I don’t really get the concept of draft day, nor do I get the ins and outs of the entire procedure. But that didn’t stop me really enjoying this movie and it shouldn’t stop you either. With that being said, it’s probably best that I leave the plot to the official synopsis:

Draft Day takes place on the day of the NFL Draft, and general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (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 lifeā€changing day for a few hundred young men with dreams of playing in the NFL.

So essentially Draft Day is a film about people making decisions. Decisions about people, their lives, their careers. Decisions that it’s made abundantly clear will, and have, huge impact on the future of everyone involved. Which, to be fair, could be really boring and it is – in the beginning. So much so that, honestly, I had a little doze in the films opening minutes. But then something happens: Costner suddenly seems to burst into life as the put upon NFL manager as the clock for making his “pick” runs down and he gets more frustrated with the decisions he has to make and those that try to influence him.

It’s a credit to both Costner as actor and Ivan Reitman (yes THAT Ivan Reitman, of Ghostbusters and Evolution fame) as director – interestingly directing his first sports movie – that the story, once it kicks into gear, never gets boring, even in moments when there is little more going on than someone looking at a computer screen or waiting for a phone call. It may seem a little contrived but the visual look of the film: split screens, on screen titles, etc. work to keep the film looking interesting in these slower moments and one can’t but help think that they were inspired somewhat by the glitzy TV presentations of the NFL themselves.

Sports films are ten-a-plenty these days – Costner has appeared in six (including Draft Day) himself – but it’s not often we see the types of behind the scenes dramas from this perspective. Bosses are normally the evil, uncaring voices on the end of a headset as the coach tries his best to win the game, or they’re the one’s the team works against to keep themselves in the game. But Reitman and Costner put a new spin on the sports manager position and it’s thanks to Costner that this new take on the football movie works so well. He is the glue that keeps the film together and his downtrodden, put-upon, Sonny is easily one of his best roles – it’s interesting to note that Costner’s former sports films give this character more of a gravitas, as if his experience (in both actor and character terms) has led to this. There’s also something spellbinding about Costner’s performance, you really empathise with Sonny Weaveer on every step of this mere 24 hour journey and when it comes to the crunch you end up rooting for the suited and booted manager as much as you would for the sweaty football player in any other sports movie!

There are sub-plots regarding Sonny’s relationship with Jennifer Garner’s accountant (whose it’s revealed early doors is pregnant with Sonny’s child) and his mother, played by Ellen Burstyn, yet neither really impact on the core story apart from offering distractions for Sonny’s attention when it comes to making the hard decisions. Draft Day is really Kevin Costner’s movie; it’s easily one of his best (probably his best role, and film, since 2007′s Mr. Brooks) and much like his 1989 classic Field of Dreams, you don’t have to love the sport to love this movie.

**** 4/5

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