This marks the third film from Kevin Costner this year and, thankfully, after the disappointments of “3 Days to Kill” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” this is something worth watching. Costner returns to the arena of sports (“For Love of the Game,” “Field of Dreams” and “Bull Durham”) where he has done so well in the past.
“Draft Day” is a film centering around one of the most important and political components of the NFL, yet we never even have to watch a single football game during the entire film. Directed by Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters” and “Six Days Seven Nights”), this is the most dramatic film he has helmed since the 1980s. Finally, speaking of dramatic, just when I thought her career was a complete loss, Jennifer Garner follows up “Dallas Buyers Club” with maybe her best film role yet.
Faced with the recent death of his father and the news that his assistant is pregnant with his child, Sonny Weaver Jr. (Costner) faces the most stressful and important day of the year: NFL draft day for the Cleveland Browns. It’s finally his turn to pick and position the team he feels will take the lagging franchise to the Super Bowl.
However, with immense pressure from the team owner (Langella) to make a marketing splash and butting heads with the Browns coach (Dennis Leary), he is overwhelmed and makes deals that will affect the future of the team for years to come. We watch the day unfold as he makes and takes important calls, making million-dollar deals that not only change the team but the players’ lives.
I’m really surprised that the two screenwriters have managed to give an audience the viable information, especially for those who know nothing about football, to make this story work. Of course, draft day could be compared to the stock market stress, producers casting a big budget film, etc.
Costner returns to the type of stressful, anxiety-ridden, SOB with a heart of gold character he made famous in the 1990s.
The first moment I saw him and Garner together, it looked and felt odd, but her role, in context to the film, really made sense and her confidence as a character was something I hadn’t seen her play.
Reitman and the writers turn this into a non-action thriller like “Margin Game.” Words become weapons and situations become chase sequences.
The film does have some flaws, which are most visibly the distracting wipe lines used throughout the film for transitions or captions.
In many of the earlier scenes, no doubt trying to make up for pacing issues, one character will walk across the frame of another, in a sort of gimmick-editing move that does nothing but distract the audience. The film is strong enough without that garbage to try and appear “new age”.
Final Thought: After two misses in 2014, Costner finally returns to the type of role he is good at.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Frank Langella
The Silver Screen
Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. More reviews are available at texasartfilm.com.