Sun Tzu once said that “every battle is won before it is ever fought.” This quote is proudly displayed on the wall in Sonny Weaver’s office with the Cleveland Browns. With the NFL Draft having finally arrived, months of speculation have turned into hours of intense speculation of what teams are going to selected specific players to be their franchise and their future. Sonny is caught in the precarious position of receiving threats from his owner to make a splash, pressure from the fans to make something of the team, guilt from some prospects that want to make it in Cleveland, and disorder between his selection team and his head coach. Meanwhile, life does not stop because of his need to focus on the draft. With the seventh pick, he could take the expected move of selecting RB Ray Jennings, take a calculated risk on LB Vontae Mack, or try to do something more spectacular than anyone was ready to expect.
Starring: Kevin Costner (Sonny Weaver Jr), Jennifer Garner (Ali), Patrick St. Esprit (Tom Michaels), Chi McBride (Walt Gordon), Denis Leary (Coach Penn), Chadwick Boseman (Vontae Mack), Terry Crews (Earl Jennings), Arian Foster (Ray Jennings), Frank Langelia (Anthony Molina), Timothy Simons (Marx), David Ramsey (Thompson), Wade Williams (O’Reilly), Sean Combs (Chris Crawford), Josh Pence (Bo Callahan), Ellen Burstyn (Barb Weaver), Tom Welling (Brian Drew)
Costner clearly had a lot on his mind while playing this character. While there was so much that he seemed to endure during one of the most stressful days of his character’s life, he seemed to be able to promote a tempered panic in a man getting attacked from all angles. While Costner’s level-headedness was more intriguing based on his pressures, Garner’s caused her character’s level of being memorable diminish significantly. Her story lacked the energy one would expect from her. Langelia and Leary were much the opposite. Both the owner and the coach promoted their level of intensity from start to finish.
Most sports films focus on the experience of the game. When the story tracks the process leading up to the play on the field, there is still a lot of action with game elements like scouting and preseason games. Ivan Reitman flipped the script and focused purely on the experience of the draft itself. From the “war room” to the communication with potential players, Sonny was inundated with the pressure of protecting his job and doing what was best for the team. He truly started the day with a splash by trading up for the #1 pick but forfeiting their next three drafts of their #1 picks. With the presumed top pick in the bag, he immediately realized that there was something wrong about their situation. He was doubting himself and knew that his owner’s excitement was not truly justified. Using the rest of the day and the beginning of the draft to sort out the mess, he was able to do something that truly surprised the football world.
While the main storyline is gripping, there are two challenges with the film. The first was the lack of surprise in the end result. While the path to get there was not truly clear, the fates of Brian Drew, Bo Callahan, Ray Jennings, and Vontae Mack were not a surprise. This challenge was not a major one since the story was truly compelling. The problem with the film seemed to be with the other side stories and personal challenges with Sonny. Ali’s pregnancy and relationship drama did not feel like drama at all. The emotionless storytelling seemed to just serve as filler. It felt like there was an opportunity to present the female experience in a male-dominated industry that fell short. Similarly, Barb’s intrusion on Sonny’s important day felt like an annoyance, where Sonny’s reaction felt totally justified. Stories need to be multidimensional and complex, but there may have been a better way to include those elements.
Draft Day is a great presentation of the drama associated with arguably the most important event in the season of the NFL. With actors and real NFL affiliates combined to tell the story, it is definitely a fun and exciting new angle to respect the industry.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5