'Draft Day' Captures the Frenzy of Football, Albeit in a Predictable Manner
From Field of Dreams to Tin Cup, Kevin Costner is a wily old veteran in the sports drama genre. Field of Dreams was a cultural and box office hit, whilst the latter was an over-the-top attempt at trying to make golf interesting. Draft Day falls somewhere in between.
turn around the team's fortunes
Costner plays Sonner Weaver, Jr., the general manager of the Cleveland Browns and the son of a coaching legend who recently died. Sonny isn't heralded by the fans the way his father was, thanks in large to a mediocre season that has handed the Browns another losing season and the seventh overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
The draft is an annual event in which the National Football League (NFL) teams select eligible college football players. It serves as the league's most common source of player recruitment. The focus is squarely on Sonny as he scrutinises collegiate hopefuls and agonises over who to pick, whilst battling his urges that may tempt him otherwise.
Sonny knows he needs to turn around the team's fortunes with a blue chip selection, beginning a multi-million dollar chess match with other NFL executives which establishes the essence of this story. Executives lie, deceive and bargain to manipulate the college football talent pool to their advantage. Sonny needs to remain calm, ignore the petitions of players and their agents, and make the right decision for his team.
Director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters) does a proficient job of capturing the national hysteria attached to the draft. Reitman was granted authorised access by the NFL— alongside a handful of teams which include the Seattle Seahawks— that help give this movie its realistic touch and believability.
What Draft Day offers up is an unorthodox approach to the telling of a sports drama. We seldom see any action from the game itself, apart from some sporadic clips of classic moments. Unfortunately, this obvious ploy doesn't lend itself to giving more depth to characters in the way Bennett Miller's Moneyball did. Both are similar in theme (focusing on the General Manager's operations and building of the team) but what Moneyball offers in a story that isn't so much about sports as about the war between intuition and statistics. There is an intellect to Moneyball that is lacking in Draft Day.
Draft Day sparkles in the first half but fumbles its way through the second. The story is told at an enjoyable pace but its predictable culmination holds it back from developing into the rounded tale it could've become. It's hard to see Draft Day appealing to non-fans of the sport, but fans will agree it's a movie that does a competent job of portraying the politics that go on behind-the-scenes every year during the lead up to the cut-throat world that is the draft.