Andrea’s Angle | “AIR” — Performances Soar
With AIR, I really had little doubt that this was a stellar cast. With the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck involved, I had high hopes for this film. Despite not being a giant basketball fan, everyone has heard of Michael Jordan and Nike. This film revolves around the deal that created the Air Jordan line, so I wasn’t sure whether my lack of knowledge would inhibit my enjoyment of the movie. It did not. This film was highly entertaining and funny, and the performances soar, the entire cast brilliant.
Air is a biographical sports drama film directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery. It is based on true events about the origin of Air Jordan, a basketball line wherein Nike employee Sonny Vacarro seeks to strike a business deal with Michael Jordan. The film follows Sonny as he offers a game-changing deal with then-rookie Michael Jordan, a huge career-defining gamble by the Nike team that included CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck), Sales Director Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), Howard White (Chris Tucker), and creator of the shoe Peter Moore (Matthew Maher). The team fights for a deal with Jordan’s agent David Faulk (Chris Messina), but eventually, with support from friend George Raveling (Marlon Wayans), Sonny reaches out to Jordan’s mother (Viola Davis) whose belief in her son revolutionizes the sports world.
The film is incredibly entertaining. Even if you aren’t a sports fan, you will find this film emotional and dramatic. Part of what makes it so entertaining is the jokes and humor that are dropped into the movie. There is one scene between Sonny and agent David Faulk that is hilarious as the two snipe back and forth over getting a meeting with Jordan. Another factor is the character quirks of CEO Phil Knight, who likes to run, meditate, and offer philosophical quotes to his team. It also helps that nobody paints the company as perfect. In the film, Nike makes its money on its running shoes and has little interest in keeping open the basketball division. The movie is emotional because without the deal, the division might close, and employees would lose their jobs. And even though everyone knows the final decision, the movie does a fantastic job of creating tension over the deal and the outcome. I also love the way historical information is dropped in at various points in the movie with an ending that gives us even more facts about the individuals involved in the deal.
The set design is perfectly set to the eighties. We see computers with the old familiar green coding, payphones, beepers, and furniture that just matches the time period perfectly. The suits that the men wear reflect the time as well. These little touches enhance the film, adding to the atmosphere and immersing the audience in the time period. At the introduction of the film, we also see commercials, TV shows, and music to ground you in the time, allowing the audience to get a sense of the culture of the time. These kinds of decisions and the story reflect the talent of Ben Affleck as a director.
It is the performances that shine the most, however. Matt Damon is emotional and brilliant as Sonny Vacarro. He is believable as an intelligent man who believes in the talent of Michael Jordan, even as a rookie. Ben Affleck perfectly captures the character of Phil Knight, down to his quirks and personality traits. He is skilled in his portrayal. He and Damon have a wonderful dynamic onscreen. Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser is subtly funny, giving a warm and skilled performance. Matthew Maher as Peter Moore is a standout performance; his portrayal is hilarious but also brilliant. Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother is phenomenal. She is supremely talented in this film, magnetic and emotional. Chris Messina is terrifically funny as David Faulk. Chris Tucker has a nuanced and layered performance that allows him to have comedic moments but also shine as a dramatic actor. Marlon Wayans as George Raveling is charismatic.
If there is any tiny critique, it’s that we have a lack of Michael Jordan in the film. While his presence is felt throughout the movie, the actor playing him is only seen from the back, and we only hear him speak once. For a film that is focused so much on Michael Jordan, it is an odd choice. While the film is still entertaining and emotional, it does lessen the impact just the tiniest amount that we never see the face of the man playing such a pivotal role.
If you love basketball or even if you don’t, if you love drama and emotion, this film is one that you should go see in the theaters. The cast is stellar, the performances soar with excellence. The cast is outstanding, every single one of them, and Ben Affleck does a skillful job directing the movie. The story of this deal changed the sports world, and even if you know the outcome, the journey will keep you entertained beyond measure. For those who love history, this shouldn’t be missed.
4.5 out of 5 swooshes
Official Website: AIR
From award-winning director Ben Affleck (Argo, The Town), AIR reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. This inspirational story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.
AIR opens exclusively in theaters on April 5, 2023.
ONE-LINER: Courting a legend.