High Flying Bird
High Flying Bird is a sports drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Sports agent Ray Burke represents the #1 draft pick, Erick Scott, a basketball player ready to become a pro with a huge contract. However, the league is in a lockout due to a dispute between the players’ association and the owners. Ray needs to get Erick signed or he risks losing his job at the agency. The film uncovers the disconnect between the players who make up the team and the owners who shell out the money. The goal of the players is to find a way to close the gap. Meanwhile, Ray is a whirlwind of activity bantering with his agency boss, David Starr, exchanging opinions with his streetwise assistant Samantha, negotiating with Myra, the head of the players’ association, and with David Seton, the team’s owner. Ray uncovers a loophole in the labor agreement that can determine who controls the game—is it the players or is it the owners?
Andre Holland (Ray Burke) | Melvin Gregg (Erick Scott) | Sonja Sohn (Myra) | Zachary Quinto (David Starr) | Kyle MacLachlin (David Seton)
Why Stream This Film?
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 91% 91%
- Metacritic Score 78% 78%
Academy Awards: Winner, Best Documentary
Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards: Winner, Most Innovative Documentary; Best Cinematography
British Academy Film Awards: Winner, Best Documentary
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This isn’t a sports movie in any conventional sense. It uses the charisma of athletes and the competitive energy of the game they play to catalyze a feisty, twisty fable of labor and capital in the 21st century. The film leaves you with a lot to think about, in addition to race, class, and basketball: what it means to love your work, and why it matters to be paid for it; how utopian visions and tactical calculations work together to create the possibility of change; why we take fun so seriously. McCraney’s script is quite simply an extraordinary piece of writing, idiomatic and poetic in its cadences and pleasingly serpentine in its structure.
Powered by a fantastic script, the film imagines what could happen if pro players took their careers into their own hands during a labor shutdown, and how they might use the internet to get the word out.
HIGH FLYING BIRD manages to be the most trenchant of sports films, dealing with the potent disconnect between who plays the games and who owns the teams, all without showing a minute of actual sports footage or even mentioning the NBA. McCraney’s script is bursting with iconoclastic ideas and fast-paced dialogue that dazzles like an elusive guard streaking down the court.
It’s a Promethean sports drama that hums with the verve and purpose of Soderbergh’s very best work. It’s a clever film that moves fast and reverberates with past trauma and the promise of new hope.
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