Air Review

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It is an unusual thing for a gritty sports underdog movie to make you support a big corporation, but that’s where Air stands out. Ben Affleck and Alex Convery have made a semi-biographical film about how Nike became king of basketball shoes by sidestepping Michael Jordan and focusing on its staff, with surprising success. Rather than using an actor to play Jordan, director suggests him only through from-behind silhouettes thus enabling all main players in this almost true Nike story shine off his limelight as a hall-of-famer. Instead, Convery’s script discovers the theme behind Air that has meaning to what Nike’s Jordan deal did for athletes’ stakes and lives of people who were ambitious within it, thereby giving some room for an exceptional cast selling positive messages of hope.

Air is an account of dreamers and rebels who bring together an amazing ensemble cast that brings out the best in their characters. Though this film may revolve around Jordan as a celebrity centering it all; Matt Damon’s tough Sonny Vaccaro becomes the unlikely hero – A.D.I.D.A.S and Converse dominated NBA brands which had hired Sonny as the Guru of Basketball (portrayed by Affleck as he confronts inner conflicts) to set up their specialized division tasked with competing against them. Damon’s wit works perfectly in his role as one among numerous marketing executives whose intelligence surpasses those of other colleagues apart from himself in any room likeability that draws fans like us toward him. Damon grounds his lovable optimism with leading-man charisma making it impossible for anyone not to cheer him on outside boardrooms.

Meaty performances such as Viola Davis playing Jordan’s mother Deloris who is adept at negotiations or Jason Bateman representing Nike’s marketing manager Rob Strasser who gets stressed easily are some highlights in Air. They are just some examples of actors who add humanity to Air even though dollars signs along with TV commercial spots are what the film is about and not why Sonny might accept working weekends or why Deloris agreed to meet Nike despite Jordan’s indifference. Air ingeniously lets everyone from anxious CEOs and outspoken agents like Chris Messina who plays Jordan’s agent and a bunch of others to take over this film, which is not just an another soulless ‘number-crunching’ biographical drama.

However, Affleck and Convery tell us things we already know in a less original glossy package. Air by Affleck may be his least visually interesting movie, especially some chroma-green shots that stand out as they eliminate any naturalness. The Oregon-based headquarters of Nike never seem unique despite the non-metropolitan location while the aesthetics does not appear extravagantly 80s even with Phil’s neon-pink “nut hugger” jogging shorts or few needle drops e.g. Dire Strait’s “Money For Nothing” that has been used in many films before. While focusing on characters as if they were targets through sights of a sniper scope, Affleck forgets to characterize what Air itself is. It is up to an ensemble cast asked to find meaning within the NBA shoe business domination theme for their heartfelt performance efforts behind them.

Every actor grabs the ball and gets on one’s own time in the spotlight. Davis transcends stereotypes about pushy moms so that she becomes a confident African American lady speaking to Caucasian business people who view her son as an asset. Damon struggles with how to loosen the purse strings that have forbidden Sonny from doing his job or make peace with the fact that if it all goes wrong Nike will lose its entire basketball division.

These are the performances that leave lasting impressions – sometimes simple entertainment and others emotionally moving, like when Bateman’s character tearfully lists all that is at stake if downsized dad loses his steady income. This Convery’s story is not just about what could happen to Nike should Jordan choose Converse or A.D.I.D.A.S – rather, it is so powerfully about those whom this deal would either bring up or wreck depending on its outcome.

Alternatively, it is also funnier than expected. One might suppose although there were no jokes by then especially fiery exchanges between Sonny and David while calling back to slam Nike’s guy for really showing off attitude during such talks of which only Matthew Maher gives Peter Moore, chief shoe designer, comedic lines delivered with grace even in a brief cameo.

It does what Tetris tries but Ben Affleck actually achieves: making plain boring contract negotiations humorous using humor and levity as well as another secret ingredient makes any dry contract negotiation interesting. After all, this is probably an often told tale with a revolutionary outcome but we still enjoy riding along respecting their hustle and laughing at their madness as Air Jordan line takes shape before our eyes.


Air is an underdog crowd-pleaser with a standout ensemble cast sharpened to a point. And also explains comedy during some parts of explanation where he successfully makes crowd-friendly film possible for everyone through striking balance between comedy and explanation alongside being both director and co-star. For sneakerhead historians, this may be not challenging or enlightening about the Air Jordan deal, and it is a bit less spectacularly shot than we have come to associate with Affleck’s oeuvre with regard to cinematography and iconically ‘80s atmosphere; however, scene-by-scene Air is a very good character study. We’re here to watch actors like Matt Damon and Viola Davis do what they do best, digging into the complexity of roles beyond the prominent characteristics. This biographical tale isn’t one of those biopics that dances around its own fabrications but instead owns up to them while still highlighting the importance of Nike’s groundbreaking Michael Jordan deal, without overshadowing everything else about Jordan as a celebrity.

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