Director Ben Affleck
Starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Scott’s Review #1,358
Reviewed April 19, 2023
Ben Affleck both directs and co-stars in Air (2023), a sports drama that is surprisingly neither cliched nor enshrouded in a big climactic showdown at the conclusion. This happens in way too many sports-centered films.
Other than basketball game clips occasionally playing in the background the action takes place within boardrooms rather than on the court.
Being a basketball fan is not required.
There is a measure of predictability in Air which I didn’t mind, again surprising. Anyone superficially familiar with National Basketball Association superstar Michael Jordan knows about his famous Air Jordan sneakers. His colorful footwear overtook the nation during the 1980s and 1990s.
This film is based on the true story of its origin and the circumstances surrounding it.
Air is a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the word with energy and affection and not a slow moment to be found.
An unlikely partnership develops between a then-rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s struggling basketball division revolutionizing the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand.
A Nike basketball talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) comes up with an unusual and risky offer to land Jordan, a rising college star who would become the most successful NBA player in history.
His parents, Deloris and James (Viola Davis and Julius Tennon) cleverly negotiate for their son to earn his share of the pie usually saved only for executives and business people rather than the sports star. Deloris knows the worth of her son’s immense talent and unmovingly sticks to her guns.
A treat for anyone who grew up in the 1984 era, countless pop songs and pop culture references are included. Every few minutes, snippets of upbeat tunes emote from the screen adding pleasure and nostalgia to the film.
Peppered throughout also include automobiles, office telephones, fax machines, and basic computers. There’s even an early car cell phone included.
Other famous sneaker brands of the time like Adidas and Converse are represented during a time when celebrities and the like were starting to align with sneakers to make large profits.
I’ve said this too many times but in films set during a different time it either looks authentic or it looks like modern actors dressed for the times.
Affleck as a director knows his stuff in this regard. He is a good actor but a very good director.
Damon is the film lead and does so convincingly. Either wearing a padded suit or chunking up to fit the character of Sonny, it’s unclear which, the actor appears as a ‘regular guy’ rather than a Hollywood movie star. This is tricky to pull off for a big star but here it works.
Sonny’s earnestness to save Nike and his connection to the Jordan family feels fresh and unassuming. He’s painted as a good guy and counterbalances other scheming and bloodthirsty sports agents like David Falk, impressively played by Chris Messina.
Jason Bateman also shines brightly as Sonny’s colleague, Robby Strasser, a man revealed to be lonely. In a touching moment, Sonny brings Robby a birthday cake on a working Sunday, when his special day would otherwise have been forgotten.
Davis can never do wrong but is the anchor of the film and the role of common sense.
Finally, the character of Michael Jordan is portrayed in the film, though his face is not seen, and has limited dialogue.
Thanks to a crackling screenplay and genuine sincerity, Ben Affleck’s Air (2023) has gotten butts back in movie theater seats. It proves that people do love the theater when served a satisfying offering.