For hardcore NFL fans, Draft Day is a must see. The entire story takes place on NFL Draft day. Draft Day starts slowly. The movie, happily, builds picks up speed along the way and come to a satisfying ending.
Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) is the general manager of the Cleveland Browns. He holds a high pick but wants to parlay it into something better. He’s on the phone with fellow NFL GMs trolling for deals and seeking info. Meanwhile he’s dealing with all the other characters in his workplace world.
Ali (Jennifer Garner) is the team’s salary cap manager. She’s also Sonny’s live-in girlfriend. Coach Penn (Dennis Leary), who flashes the Super Bowl ring he earned as a Cowboys assistant, wants to have a say in the team’s picks. Team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella) gives Sonny plenty of leeway to make his moves—as long as they have a positive outcome.
Weaver’s father, a former Browns head coach, has died just a few days before draft day, which leads to a bit of family drama with his mom (Ellen Burstyn).
As the day progresses, leading up to the draft at Radio City, questions are asked and answered about certain players. It seems unrealistic that a team would still be investigating a player’s character at the last minute—considering all the intelligence that’s gathered for months leading up to the draft.
Chadwick Boseman, who starred a year ago as Jackie Robinson in 42, gives a likeable performance as a collegiate linebacker who’s hoping to go high. Sam Elliott has a brief role as the head football coach at Wisconsin.
Draft Day features several real life individuals. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is played by… Roger Goodell! TV talking heads in the movie include Chris Berman, Jon Gruden, Deion Sanders, Rich Eisen and Mel Kiper.
Two production touches I liked: The flyover beauty shots of several NFL stadiums look terrific on screen. And the way director Ivan Reitman handles split screen shots during Sonny’s several draft day phone calls is clever. (Reitman was director of Ghostbusters, Stripes, Kindergarten Cop, Meatballs and many others.)
As Weaver wheels and deals, tension builds, leading up to the actual picking of the players. The drama of the choosing—seen from several points of view—is greater than was expected.
This is the 3rd Costner movie in the last 3 months and, by far, the most entertaining. As mentioned earlier this year, Costner is an actor enjoyed by men and women. While men may want to see this film because of its football story, women should be able to enjoy the Sonny-Ali relationship and the many conflicts between various characters.
Draft Day will make NFL fans anxious for the draft to begin and will serve as a reminder of just how entertaining NFL football can be. With the real NFL Draft set for May 8, this film should guarantee a bigger TV audience for the annual ritual.
Yes, releasing Draft Day just 2 weeks into baseball season is a bit of a nose thumb to our former national pastime. But NFL football is big enough to get away with it.