By Jacob Montgomery (Texas)
Relatively speaking, I’m not a huge football fan. Do I like watching it? Yes. Do I watch it religiously? Not really. Considering that I’m a male Texan, it feels like I should be a huge fan of football, but it never really clicked. Sure I know most of the mechanics of the game, and have gotten wrapped up in football fever every once in a while, but as to what goes on behind the scenes, I don’t care that much. I don’t watch or care about the draft, and I rarely watch college games. I say this, because this film somehow managed to not only make me care about what was going on in a sports draft, but it made me care what happened to this fictionalized version of the Cleveland Browns. That is impressive.
The film mostly takes place over the course of a single day, and follows fictional Cleveland Browns GM, Sonny Weaver Jr., played by Kevin Costner. He is put in a terrible position at the beginning of the day when he is offered a risky trade, and decides to take it. Then he spends the rest of the film trying to figure out what the best angle is for him to work this, and ultimately figure out how to make the best NFL team he can.
On a scratch surface, that plot doesn’t sound very engaging. To be honest, I may have made it seem duller than it actually is; however, the film is very engaging to watch, mostly accredited to the fantastic directing by Ivan Reitman, and the smart screenplay. Even though there is quite a bit going on, I never felt the film was overcrowded with plot points or confusing. If anything, the frantic pace of plot elements just goes to show how busy a draft day is for an NFL team. The only thing I’d say about that, negative-wise, is that there’s a scene where Costner’s mother wants to spread the ashes of his recently deceased father on the football field, and she insists it has to be today, instead of some other day. I don’t really get it, and that scene could’ve been cut.
Kevin Costner was pretty quiet during the noughties, most likely having something to do with the bomb The Postman, however recently he’s made a comeback, appearing in quite a bit more films, and in mostly better films. To me, this film cements that Costner is able to have a screen presence today. While the work he does here isn’t extraordinary, he does do a good job with bringing the part to life, showing the strains of such a difficult job, and what a GM would have to go through on such an important day.
It’s also a great thing that Costner is given a plethora of excellent supporting actors to work with. In particular his on-screen chemistry with Jennifer Garner hits just the right marks. Their relationship, while not really important to the main plot, does humanize the film and lets the audience know that there are more important things in life than sports.
Also, I want to give the film credit for its ambiguous ending. At the end, I kept thinking to myself, “cut to credits” over and over, like a mantra, and they did. I love it when you know a film should do something, and the film does it. Ultimately, the film doesn’t say what the result of the draft is. Does the team work well together? Do they have a good season? Do they win the Super Bowl? The film doesn’t answer these questions, and it doesn’t have to.
There’s nothing about the film that screams, “masterpiece” or “award contender” but other than that, I can’t think of anything to dislike about this film. The climax consists of back and forth conversation, and it’s just as intense as any action sequence I’ve seen this year. If a film gets me that interested about the technicalities of a sports draft, then it deserves my praise.