Over the past few months, streaming giant Netflix has been on a roll, busy disrupting the entertainment industry with genre-pioneering Black Mirror: Bandersnatch last December and a slew of recent hits like Susanne Bier’s Bird Box and Chris Smith’s Fyre documentary. Now that they’ve proven the vast potentials of breaking free from the shackles of the studio system, the company has been focusing more on making original content. This has been fast attracting A-list talents to come and collaborate under their kinship. Their latest recruit is none other than director Steven Soderbergh, the same creative maestro behind Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and Unsane (2018). This time around, the famed director is veering away from the psycho-thriller and heist genre, and instead taking us into the world of professional basketball in the upcoming Netflix original film, High Flying Bird.
In the just-released first trailer, viewers get a peek behind the curtains of a life not usually in the spotlight: a sports agent in New York City. The story is loosely based on the infamous 2011 NBA Lockout, an eight-month period that had the entire sports industry holding its breath. At the time, the NBA came to a grinding halt, with no games running on the court or players doing what they’re paid to do. Caught up in the crossfire between the league and the players is agent Ray Burke (played by Andrè Holland), who is scrambling to protect himself and his clients. With only 72 hours to pull off an ambitious plan and save his career, he ends up discovering a loophole that could shift the face of the game forever. Ray is driven by his intention to balance the scales, but conflict arrives when it instead raises questions of who really owns the game and who rightly deserves to.
The two-minute trailer makes it clear that this is not your typical athlete film a la Rocky (1976) or Creed (2015). In an interview with GQ Magazine, screenwriter and Academy Award-winner Tarell Alvin McCraney points out that it is “a sports movie with no sports.” True enough, what High Flying Bird hopes to shed light on are the unsung heroes who make the work happen but are often left out of the big decisions. These big decisions, as we see in the film, may not always turn out in one’s favor, but should not be excuses to give up. In the same way, Lottoland quotes legendary NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who sums up the sport in general by saying, “You can’t win unless you learn how to lose.” True enough, the NBA Lockout was a time of trials and a test of patience, not just on the court, but in the wider world of basketball as well. Looking back, however, it was inevitable in pushing the industry forward — a narrative that Soderbergh and his team beautifully illustrate in High Flying Bird.
The all-star cast includes Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2), Melvin Gregg (American Vandal), Sonja Sohn (The Wire), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek Beyond), Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) and Bill Duke (Predator). It also features appearances from NBA stars Reggie Jackson, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Donovan Mitchell. High Flying Bird is set to premiere on Netflix on February 8.
Catch the official trailer below.