I often hear or read fans of Steven Soderbergh — ones who genuinely love his movies but also love the aesthetic of film and/or high-end digital cameras — ask why he keeps shooting on an iPhone. There’s a disatisfaction rooted in that question and, to be frank, it’s one I share.
But the answer is abundantly, impressively clear here in the trailer for High Flying Bird, the latest feature from Soderbergh (so much for retirement!) and his first to premiere exclusively on Netflix.
It’s also the first of his iPhone movies that, at least by watching this preview, I would never have guessed it was shot on an iPhone unless you told me. It’s a vast improvement over Unsane, Soderbergh’s previous iPhone film which debuted just one year ago.
The plot of High Flying Bird involves a high stakes venture that contests the business machinations of the NBA, and the visuals are crisp, sharp, colorful, and vibrant. Those are adjectives rarely (if ever) associated with movies shot on smart phone devices.
This is why Soderbergh keeps shooting on an iPhone; to improve and perfect the format, thus democratizing the the possiblities of high quality art to the masses. That’s a noble endeavor, and it also happens to be a fascinating ongoing experiment.
Oh, and the story — written by the Oscar-winning co-screenwriter of Moonlight, Tarell Alvin McCraney, and starring André Holland from that film’s cast — looks like it could be intriguing on its own merits.
High Flying Bird debuts on Netflix on February 8, 2019.