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Twenty-seven films, many much loftier budgets and one Oscar later, Soderbergh was back in the snows of Park City last month – not for Sundance, in fact, but Slamdance, the Utah festival’s simultaneous, lower-profile sister event. If that seems like a strangely off-the-radar place to premiere his excellent new film High Flying Bird, that’s sort of the point. Soderbergh’s relationship to the mainstream film industry has been an ambivalent one ever since he announced his retirement from big-screen film-making in 2013.
The announcement was premature: we’ve since had his films Logan Lucky and Unsane in cinemas. But the director has somewhat stuck to his guns by embracing the possibilities of Netflix distribution: days after its pointedly quiet festival debut, High Flying Bird is now available to stream.
Soderbergh - Work - Magic - Mike - Sports
It’s a must, too. Soderbergh’s liveliest, most big-thinking work since Magic Mike, this is a quick, zingy, all-business sports drama that plays like Jerry Maguire with twin degrees in economics and sociology. Written by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney (fresh from his Oscar for Moonlight), it stars the superb André Holland as Ray, a wily, up-against-it sports agent who tasks himself with ending a stalemate labour dispute in the National Basketball Association, challenging the league’s gatekeepers and power-players along the way.
Watch a trailer for High Flying Bird.
Bit - Niche - Rest - NBA - Knowledge
If that sounds a bit niche, rest assured that no NBA knowledge or enthusiasm is required to enjoy the ricocheting plot that ensues, while the fractious racial politics in a sport largely dependent on black athletic talent, but controlled by white fatcat executives comes spikily to the fore. As in Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, the most compelling gamesmanship here is happening away from the arena.
Soderbergh shoots it all with candid, agitated energy on an iPhone. It’s the second time he’s tried the technology, and it works to crisper, more limber effect...
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