STORY: ‘Draft Day’ covers a span of roughly 13-hours before the beginning of the draft day. Sonny Weaver has an opportunity to give a makeover to the Cleveland Browns team after The National Football League (NFL) team acquires the number one draft pick for the upcoming NFL draft.
REVIEW: Somehow, Kevin Costner has always excelled whenever the plot of his films revolves around sports. We saw the magic in ‘Bull Durham’, ‘Field of Dreams’, and ‘Tin Cup’. His juggernaut continues with ‘Draft Day’. This film will appeal to you only if you harbour interest in American football as represented by the NFL, else it would be safe to press the skip button. Interest apart, at heart, ‘Draft Day’ remains an extremely tight and pacy film and talks about the NFL deals that happen in the run up to draft day. In this film, the events start unfolding 13-hours before the draft day.
Draft day in simple language, is about juniors and sophomores declaring their eligibility for the NFL. After the players have been declared for the draft, they forego their right to play for their college. The film revolves around Sonny Weaver, the General Manager of the Cleveland Browns team, who is at the crossroads of his life. While he wants to move to the next phase of his career and stand on the podium, he is also about to become a father. He is tired and weary, and inside him is a duel between following the herd mentality or just doing things as per the diktats of his heart. He is always immersed in his work and the only thing that keeps playing on his mind is how to make the Cleveland Browns invincible.
This film, to a large extent, will remind you of Brad Pitt’s ‘Moneyball’. It’s a unique sports drama in the sense that a large part of the action happens inside the boardrooms of the teams and not on the field. As the countdown begins, the proceedings slowly pick up pace, and the final thirty minutes of the film will ensure that you are actually glued to your seat. The film begins with quarterback Bo Callahan, who is traded by the Seattle Seahawks to the Cleveland Browns for the next three years’ worth of first round picks. As the film progresses, one is witness to numerous trade-offs and personal happenings in Sonny Weaver’s life. These hours before Draft Day are full of back-channel negotiations and convincing. This is possibly one of those rare films where virtually all the characters in the film are shown to be extremely passionate about the game with their own quirks.
Director Ivan Reitman is fully in control of the events in the film. The split screen technique employed by the makers actually gives wings to the narration of the film and demonstrates the importance of every minute. But ‘Draft Day’ remains an out-and-out Kevin Costner film. He has delivered a brilliant performance and is there virtually in every scene. Seeing his performance, one actually feels that he has completely imbibed the character of Sonny Weaver. Towards the climax, he is in top gear and fires on all cylinders. Frank Langella as Anthony Molina looks every inch the owner of an NFL team. He is ruthless and carries his ‘richness’ with élan. Denis Leary as Vince Penn is another performance in the film that the audience is bound to notice. But it’s Chadwick Boseman’s appearance as Vontae Mack, a top prospect in the draft, that will attract your attention. He is there in the film for roughly fifteen minutes, but his presence is arresting.
Thanks to the streaming culture, this 2014 film is now available on a streaming platform as it still remains unreleased in Indian theatres. ‘Draft Day’ picks sports as its subject and then completely turns it around. It’s a film about foresight, strategies, and self-belief, and is completely seeped into the ethos of the American sport. A great way to enjoy the film would be to read something about NFL Draft Day before you enter the screening. It has all the twists and turns, apart from a dynamite performance by Kevin Costner.