Guessing game – For most of our major league sports in North America, the draft is just another day within the year. Not the NFL, though, who go out of their way to make their draft bigger; one that has grown into more of an event than anything else. But, below the shield and the primetime TV coverage are 32 general managers’s all trying to get new players for their respective teams. “Draft Day” shows us one team’s journey in and out of the draft, which is a lot more complicated that you might think.
What’s it about? For once the title of the film answer’s that question, but specifically this film is based around the Cleveland Browns organization and their upcoming draft led by General Manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner). Son of the legendary Browns coach, who died a week before the draft, Sonny feels like has something to prove to the fans that supported his family for so long. And given this is only his second year as GM, he wants to be as certain as he can be while appeasing the owner (Frank Langella) who wants him to “make a splash.” Problem is there is no certainty in the NFL, forcing GM’s like Sonny to look at deals that on any other day would seem crazy. But, on draft day, they actually appear to be half-way decent depending on your team needs. So the key then is to evaluate and come up with a plan that makes the most sense without jeopardizing the future of the team. Sounds relatively simple, but the more you watch Sonny and the Cleveland Browns work on this draft day, you realize just how convoluted this day is and how important it is for GM’s to trust their gut.
Who was in it? Outside the two headliners, director Ivan Reitman really put together a savvy group of actors for “Draft Day.” To see veteran’s like Frank Langella, Ellen Burstyn and Sam Elliot pop in and out of this story was fun, especially considering the talent they all bring to the table. I mean, together they amount to 151 years in Hollywood, which is incredible. So, I for one loved each of their small roles in this film that really was lucky to have them. They all have the ability to take over any scene they are in, but here it was Burstyn that stood out from the crowd. She might not have been around a whole lot, but when she was, she made it count. When a supporting cast member does that, it’s a bonus and I think here, it really helped hammer home the underlying story of its main character, Sonny Weaver Jr. played by Kevin Costner.
For a guy who has played in a number of sports movies over the years, Costner managed to show me something new here. Maybe it was because it was centered on football and not baseball, but either way, he was great in this role as a NFL general manager. I mean, just to watch through his character’s eyes this day and how intense it can get was enlightening, making me appreciate all 32 GM’s in the NFL even more. Same might be said for the Jennifer Garner’s character, Ali Parker, who Garner shadowed prior to filming. Garner doesn’t do much, but when she does she makes sure it’s a role she respects. And here, she let you see how challenging it was to be a female within this environment, especially when her job is managing the team’s money and/or salary cap. It’s a role that might get lost to some, but to me was just as crucial to Costner’s.
Ivan the great – Some may see the name Ivan Reitman and think it looks familiar, but won’t be able to tell you the last film he was behind. That includes yours truly, who had to look after seeing his name pop up at the end of the film. Turns out he has been behind a few cult classics over the years for my generation. Films like “Meatballs,” “Stripes,” “Ghostbusters,” “Ghostbusters II” and “Dave,” so in some ways, it’s not surprising I liked this film as much as I did. And it wasn’t so much of what he did, because quite frankly, I don’t think a director has to do a whole lot with a film like this. Especially when you have a lead like Kevin Costner, but he did manage to get everyone in the right positions’s as well as ensure the NFL logos were in full focus whenever possible. That may seem arbitrary to some, but to me it only emphasized the point that we were watching how a team like the Browns managed the draft. A team that has literary only made the playoffs twice since the 80’s. That’s tough and all the more reason why this story was so believable and entertaining.
Bottom Line- “Draft Day” might not pull people away from the next big blockbuster film down the hall, but if you want something simple and different, go watch it. Because if you do, you will be treated with an inside look to what goes on behind the shield for your favorite football team, which for most NFL fans is a must see; especially with the upcoming NFL draft on the horizon.
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