High Flying Bird is the latest film by one of the hardest working filmmakers, Steven Soderbergh. Following his last experiment Unsane (which was great), he once again made a movie after shooting it on an iPhone 7. While most people freaked out, the fact is the camera is the only thing the phone was used for, not for audio. Also, professional lighting was also used. He’s always been at the forefront of digital cinema. He made Unsane and High Flying Bird as a statement that anybody could make a film, using our own phones is the easiest way to get there.
His latest film is written by the Oscar-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney who is also a playwright. And his script shines throughout the entirety of the film. Similarly to Aaron Sorkin who’s known for quick dialogue, High Flying Bird feels the same way instead this time we are discussing the politics behind the scenes of a lockout in the NBA.
While yes, McCraney’s script might be the star of the film in its own way – André Holland is on par with it. In 2009, Holland had previously worked on stage in The Brother/Sister Plays which was written by McCraney. And he also might have stolen the show in Moonlight as Kevin in the final act. He also previously worked on The Knick which was directed by Soderbergh.
The film opens with a tracking shot while we hear a conversation that sets the mood for the film. We meet Ray (Holland) as a sports agent at a lunch with Erick (Melvin Gregg, from American Vandal) finding out about how Erick agreed to a loan when he shouldn’t have. It speaks to the hoops that the players and agents need to jump through as essentially, they are stuck in limbo waiting for the game to return and also for their access to money. Ray sets out to find a way to cope within the lockout while also attempting to appeal to each side to make the lockout end. The film plays out similarly enough like one of his Ocean’s film and it eventually becomes a heist film.
The rest of the cast is also incredible. Between Zazie Beetz as Ray’s assistant Sam, who seems magical and knows every move that Ray is about to make. Sonja Sohn from The Wire is great in her short time, as well as Zachary Quinto as Ray’s boss. Even Stranger Things‘ Caleb McLaughlin shows up and is charming as he typically is.
The film runs at only an hour and a half and that’s a downside because as someone who isn’t aware of behind the scenes for most sports, I found it extremely fascinating. Soderbergh gave us an original Netflix film that is kind of incredible, and I recommend people to seek it out. Even if you’re not into Basketball.