"Air" stars Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis. Releasing on April 5, 2023, the film has a shoe salesman attempting to sign a business deal with a rookie basketball player.
The film is directed by Ben Affleck, who also directed "Gone Baby Gone", "The Town", "Argo", and "Live by Night". With James Gunn's DC Universe on the horizon, it's bittersweet to see Ben Affleck performing as Batman one last time in the upcoming "Flash" movie. At least from the perspective of the "Snyderverse" fans. But before we see Affleck's final go as the Caped Crusader, the actor/filmmaker will tackle the world of basketball again…with a shoe company. But I'm not just talking about any other shoe company. I'm talking about Nike, the iconic shoe marketing company responsible for creating the best shoe line in the basketball world: Air Jordan. That's right, Air Jordan, as in the greatest basketball player in existence, Michael Jordan. The same Michael Jordan who played basketball with the Looney Tunes. Unfortunately, this latest drama from Affleck doesn't focus solely on Jordan's rise to fame. Instead, it involves Nike's bold decision that changed the basketball world for the company and even Jordan himself. With Affleck in front of and behind the camera, along with an all-star cast, was the film able to slam-dunk the competition? Let's find out.
The story follows Sonny Vaccaro (Damon), a shoe salesman working for Nike, a company struggling to maintain its business in the 1980s. Sonny is hired by the company's co-founder Phil Knight (Affleck), to devise a solution to compete with the other shoe companies. Sonny then developed a risky plan that could save or destroy Nike even further. The solution involves Sonny signing a rookie basketball player to wear the company's shoes. The player he's referring to is none other than Michael Jordan. As a result, Sonny must pull all the stops to convince Jordan and his parents, including Deloris (Davis), to be a part of the deal that would change their lives forever. Their journey leads them to create a shoe inspired by Jordan himself.
We have many sports movies focusing on underdog stories involving characters rising to the top and exceeding people's expectations. Whether they're factual or fictional, these films offer plenty of heartfelt drama amid their thrilling sports sequences, especially when they involve basketball. However, "Air" has Ben Affleck taking a different direction for the sports underdog storyline by focusing on what goes on outside the sport, mainly a shoe company. I only know basketball through the Milwaukee Bucks and Michael Jordan, who I was first introduced to from "Space Jam". But I didn't recognize that Jordan was responsible for Nike's rise to glory until this film was announced. Despite my lack of knowledge about the business industry, I was highly interested in seeing how this occurrence happened from a filmmaking and curiosity perspective, especially since it has a fantastic cast involved. Not to mention it has Ben Affleck returning to direct for the first time since 2016. So it's undeniable that we might be in for something special.
The movie doesn't come out until Wednesday, but I managed to attend a sneak preview event of "Air", which explains how I reviewed it early. Again, I never hesitate to take these chances to see something before everyone else whenever I hear about the advanced screenings. But, of course, I also didn't hesitate to take my mom to see it because she's a big fan of Viola Davis. She's also familiar with Michael Jordan and the shoe companies like Adidas and Converse, so it seemed like the perfect movie for her. After experiencing the true story, I will also say that it's a near-perfect film for me. What seemed like a boring depiction of the business process involving basketball shoes is actually an incredible and tightly-written showcase for the talent involved, especially Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
Outside of acting, Ben Affleck is mainly known for directing thrillers involving historical and crime elements. He has a profound way of injecting consistent tension and liveliness into his filmography regarding the character interactions amid the violence. Unfortunately, the only films I've seen from Affleck were "Argo", which was fantastic, and "Live by Night", which was the opposite of fantastic. However, they were enough for me to realize that he's just as talented as a director as he is as an actor, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to see his latest directorial effort. "Air" is a different beast for Affleck since it focuses more on the dramatic side of the real-life event than his crime thriller affairs. So don't expect any acts of gun violence to occur during their quest to sign Michael Jordan.
Unsurprisingly, Affleck continues to prove himself to be a confident and profound filmmaker through his direction. One of the best parts of his direction is that he provides atmosphere and enthusiasm for the characters, production design, and dialogue. Without the gritty tension from his previous films, Affleck had to rely on the film's light-heartedness and limited workplace elements to provide intrigue and urgency to its high-risk business dilemma. The result is undoubtedly sublime and a vast improvement over his previous directorial effort, "Live by Night". My only nitpick with it is the soundtrack, in which they provide a different 80s song every few seconds. Like, I get it. It takes place in the 1980s. You don't need to remind me every minute or so. If they spaced out the number of songs a little more, it would be less obnoxious than it is now. But that's just a dumb nitpick I had, which isn't enough to ruin my experience with the film.
In addition to Affleck's direction, "Air" also benefited from its fantastic cast, each performing one slam dunk after another. Matt Damon was attention-grabbing and full of charisma in his performance as Sonny. He had the makings of a friendly and determined businessman, and the speech he delivered to Michael was undeniably riveting and thoughtful. Ben Affleck was also great as Phil Knight, and Jason Bateman delivered another outstanding performance as Rob Strasser. Then, there's Chris Tucker as the energetic Howard White, who continues to remind me that he needs to make another "Rush Hour" movie with Jackie Chan, or at least another comedy. But, of course, I can't forget about Viola Davis as Deloris. Her performance as Michael's supportive mother further shows why she's one of my favorite actresses of all time. I just love her. However, the real MVP of this game-changing event is Chris Messina. He was absolutely hysterical as David Falk, especially when he went on a tirade against Sonny over the phone. I'm not kidding. I laughed my butt off listening to his R-rated dialogue. That was one of the film's best scenes, in my opinion.
Then, you have the screenplay by Alex Convery. Not only does it have some enticing dialogue, but it also works in providing a tight narrative focusing on the Nike employees. It gave us enough information on the dilemma and the characters involved to make us root for their success. Michael Jordan is involved in the story, but he's only portrayed as a body double, so we only see parts of him in a few scenes. This direction is for the best to show a business taking a gamble that eventually transforms into a greater reward, a similar situation sports players face daily. Besides, I'm pretty sure they struggled to find the right person to match Jordan's likeliness and skills before filming. More importantly, it's a stellar reflection on what it means to have greatness: taking a risk and persevering to rise above the challenges dragging them down. Convery's screenplay offers just enough in its characters and themes to score plenty of three-pointers for sports fans and even film fanatics like me.
Overall, "Air" soars to greatness with a consistently entertaining and tightly written sports drama filled with profound talent and nifty basketball shoes. It's also a great change of pace for director Ben Affleck as he traded in his gritty thriller vibes for a light-hearted and highly charming workplace drama depicting a game-changing deal between Nike and Michael Jordan. With its compelling cast, direction, effective screenplay, and a mixture of comedy and drama, this film is a bonafide slam dunk. If you're a fan of the actors involved or are familiar with the story behind this risky deal, make sure you find the time to check it out when it hits theaters this Wednesday.
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