High Flying Bird

For those uninterested in sport, watching a sports film may not be appealing. The art of a good sports-themed movie isn’t the activity itself but the people involved. The emotional and physical dramas deriving from issues surrounding it often makes compelling viewing. No stranger to making fascinating works, director Steven Soderbergh makes ‘High Flying Bird’ a solid watch. Shot entirely on an IPhone, the experimental photography aids in drawing out the frictions the characters face.

Ray Burke (Andre Holland) is a sports agent caught in the middle of a bitter standoff. Representing a group of black basketballers, the League has locked out its players due to a financial conflict. With his clients wanting to play the sport they love while being paid a fair wage, Ray hatches a plan. With only 72 hours in which to implement it, Ray attempts to out-gun the white wealthy corporate mandarins. Using his intricate knowledge of the mindsets of players and managers, Ray’s actions uncovers who truly owns the game.

‘High Flying Bird’ succeeds in making basketball compelling. That’s more remarkable given so little is actually seen. What’s left is a slowly unwinding story of one upmanship against vested interests and power. This is made more potent by Soderbergh’s themes of race relations and thirst for more dollars. These drive Ray to sail close to the wind in terms of dealing with businessmen who could instantly destroy careers.

Despite the unusual choice of photography, it gives ‘High Flying Bird’ a sense of immediacy. You feel truly you are in Ray’s corner as he fights for his clients and their passion for the game. This ‘fly on the wall’ view of the various machinations allow the story to delve into character’s actions and the reasoning behind them.

It may be too talky in places and occasionally drags, but ‘High Flying Bird’ is generally riveting. It’s a credit to Soderbergh in making it interesting viewing. The diverse range of topics he’s tackled have always made him a director of note with his ability to balance commercial and independent film-making ideals showing little sign of fading.

Rating out of 10: 7


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