Movie Review: High Flying Bird

Josh Brodskiy, Staff Writer

Shot entirely on an iPhone X and produced in only a matter of three weeks, director Steven Soderbergh’s film, “High Flying Bird,” is a movie that is simply not your average sports film. The Netflix original movie aims to shed light on the National Basketball Association and how much it cares for its players, managing to fit it all into a ninety minute film. High Flying Bird follows Erick Scott, played by Andre Holland, who also appears in A Wrinkle in Time and American Horror Story. Erick Scott is a rookie basketball player straight out of Louisiana State University. He has a close relationship with his agent, Ray Burke, who is played by Melvin Gregg. The two of them struggle in the midst of an NBA lockout, which is a time period when employers forbid their employees from working until they agree to certain terms. The plot introduces one of Ray’s idea, which could save both his and Scott’s careers. In addition, the movie features multiple current NBA stars including Karl Anthony-Towns (a 2015 draft pick) and Donovan Mitchell (a 2017 draft pick). High Flying Bird provides its watchers with an insight into corruption within the NBA and the struggles that rookies and corporation workers live through today.

The opening scene features both Ray and Erick having lunch while talking about the lockout that they are experiencing at work. High Flying Bird is able to convey the impacts a lockout has on players, coaches, and families. The lockout leads to Erick Scott getting manipulated into taking out a loan—one that he knows he has no way of repaying. The movie uses the scene where Ray and Erick finish eating lunch as symbolism for the issues with money that a lockout imposes on employees. As Ray tries to use his credit card to pay, it gets declined, and he is forced to pay with cash. To add insult to the injury, as the two men go off their separate ways, Ray realizes he is unable to get a taxi. The severity of the lockout falls onto his shoulders as he realizes he has neither cash nor credit card to pay for the car. A similar scene plays out when Ray talks to another character about getting his card reopened. However, he is told that not only are all league business expenses cut off until the contracts are finalized, but his salary is officially cut as well. This means that he can neither make commissions from signing players nor receive a salary from the agency company.
Steven Soderbergh refers to being an athlete as more or less a one trick pony in an interview with IndieWire.“They’re kind of obligated to occupy a certain lane, and it’s not like if they’re unhappy with the lane, in this case, that the NBA is providing for them, it’s not like there’s another league that they can go play for,” he explains. He adds that from personal experiences, he had a hard time figuring out what he was doing and how to do it when it came to signing with an agency. The film which Soderbergh brings to life, with the help of his iPhone, is intended to show the world the reality of a professional athletes life. If these athletes are unable to make it, many of them do not have a second option.

With its gripping story line and amazing actors, High Flying Bird is a film that you cannot pass up. Soderbergh manages to put a spin on the genre of sports films. He achieves this by hiring NBA players as actors and incorporating their interviews. As a result, he adds a sense of reality to an otherwise fictional film. This performance allows basketball fans and others alike to get an insight into the world of the NBA.