Slickly Produced With A Charismatic André Holland At The Helm
Character-driven and slickly produced, Netflix’s sport drama High Flying Bird is an interesting, methodically paced film. Playing on the success of Moneyball with its behind-the-scenes view on baseball, this business-driven picture does well to depict the struggle players and agents experience during an NBA lockout.
At the heart of this conflict is passionate agent Ray who finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place during a difficult lockout period in the NBA. Between satisfying his rookie client Erick and negotiating with both TV executives and other agents, what ensues is a bold, lucrative move that puts the power back in the hands of the players.
Plot-wise, High Flying Bird does reasonably well, emphasizing its plot points with various black and white interviews with basketball players. It’s a small touch but something that’s likely to make or break the film for a lot of people. At times these interviews crop up during some of the more dramatic moments and it dissipates the momentum built during those preceding scenes.
While I still think Moneyball does a better job juggling the business side of sport with drama and excitement, it’s really André Holland who makes this film as appealing as it winds up being. With a lot of the film relying heavily on dialogue to drive the narrative forward, André steps up to the plate and really owns his role. If it wasn’t for his charismatic charm and driven persona throughout the film’s 90 minutes, High Flying Bird may not have flown as high as it reaches during its run time.
The slick camera work, composition and general cinematography at play here is really one of the best parts of the film. Slow, rotating shots, perfectly composed scenes and long, smooth takes make this a very stylish film indeed. There’s a much more methodical pace at play here compared to other faster paced dramas which really works to re-emphasize the exhausting nature of the lockout being depicted.
High Flying Bird won’t be for everyone. In fact it’s pretty slow-paced and lacking a definitive arc for much of the run time which may put some people off this one. The big picture isn’t fully fleshed out until late on in the game and by this time it turns into a much more thought-provoking picture, asking big questions about whether sport has become too business driven for its own good.
Thematically, this is really the crux of the drama and through this we see the trials and tribulations various players have to go through. André is the star though and through his charismatic charm, it’s easy to emphasize with the struggle he goes through during this difficult time. It won’t be for everyone but if you can take to High Flying Bird’s pacing and story, there’s an interesting and oftentimes engrossing sport drama at the heart of this one.