April 5th, 2023
STARRING: MATT DAMON, BEN AFFLECK, JASON BATEMAN, VIOLA DAVIS, CHRIS TUCKER
DIRECTED BY: BEN AFFLECK
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 4 STARS (Out of 4)
I told myself I would slow down giving movies 4-stars and then Air showed up. Ben Affleck’s newest film– working both in front and behind the camera– captures a moment in sports history that may not have seemed significant at the time, but reverberates stronger in 2023. Air highlights the year 1984, after the recent NBA draft, and Nike sitting in third place on the shoe market. For Phil Knight and the rest of his company, something needed to change, and it arrived in the bet on Michael Jordan. In hindsight it might have seemed like a no-brainer, through Ben Affleck’s no mess style, and an all-star cast delivering top-notch performances- Air rises above all expectations.
It begins with one man, Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a former basketball scout, and consistent sports gambler that was hired on to change the basketball shoe department for Nike. At the moment, Nike is far behind Adidas and Converse on basketball shoes. CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck sporting some serious 80’s outfits and hair) believes the focus should be on running shoes instead, but still wants Vaccaro to turn things around. It’s an impossible task and even worse if Nike can’t take risks. That’s what Vaccaro was brought in for but now he has to convince everyone that all of Nike should rest on the shoes of one man.
From the first frame to last, Air is filled with energy. The screenplay is honest and sharply written by Alex Convery. Where Affleck and company deliver is by forging the story straight ahead. They’re not cosplaying as characters or working hard to look like figures. Instead they are just being people. Damon is quite good but the supporting cast around him is superb. Jason Bateman is marketing man Rob Strasser, Chris Messina as sharp tongued agent David Falk, Chris Tucker (delivering some of his best work yet) as Nike player rep Howard White, and the legendary closer Viola Davis as Jordan’s even tempered and graceful mother Deloris. It all culminates together in a straight to the point Hollywood movie.
One of the genius choices made by Affleck is to not have an actor play Michael Jordan. All shots of #23 are the back of his head, brief flashes of highlight clips, and his voice over the phone. The Argo director is more interested on the business side and that is what shines through. This isn’t just the story of one man but a tale that has had a massive impact throughout the sports and marketing world to this very day. You’re not just buying Nike’s. You’re buying Jordans. The way Lebron James creates his own brand on his social media, Shaquille O’Neal can add his personality to any product, or Steph Curry tells us he enjoys Subway sandwiches. All of it is a result of the relationship that Nike and Jordan created.
By the end I was hard pressed to find any problems with Air. It’s not too long. The acting is some of the best we will see all year. And the production side is impeccable, with great cinematography by Robert Richardson, nostalgic costume design, and a great soundtrack. It sits up there with strong Hollywood movies such as Ford v Ferrari, The Martian, and yes Argo. It’s a story like this that brings us all together at the theater. That’s the power of Michael Jordan. He transcended basketball. His game, his shoes, they were all in rarified Air.
AIR IS IN THEATERS WEDNESDAY APRIL 5TH, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady