Some icons are meant to fly.
Air is a 2023 biographical sports drama film directed by Ben Affleck, written by Alex Convery, produced by Amazon Studios, Skydance Studios, Artists Equity, and Mandalay Pictures, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. It is based off of the events of Michael Jordan signing with Nike in 1984. The film stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
"A shoe is just a shoe until someone steps into it." - Rob Strasser
Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro takes one last shot at saving the dying shoe company from being trampled by Adidas and Converse by working out a contract with superstar college basketball prospect Michael Jordan.
What I think is most impressive about Air is its ability to make conversations and meetings interesting. This entire movie is people sitting at desks and talking. In most films, that isn't interesting. But Air utilizes fantastic acting, a crackling screenplay, and great direction from Ben Affleck to make these simple conversations and meetings interesting.
This film also flips the sports genre entirely on its head. I think Air may be the first movie that I've seen that is about sports but actually has no sports in it. There is basically no basketball in this movie. The characters talk about basketball a lot, but we never actually see any basketball played. It's also a movie about Michael Jordan, and Ben Affleck made the choice to not actually show him in the film. And I think it works. It maintains the illusion that the real Michael Jordan exists in this story, not some actor that's playing him. I really, really liked that decision.
The film also crafts these characters in a compelling way. Now, obviously, Sonny Vaccaro, Phil Knight, and the rest of the characters in this movie are real people. But through this film, you are able to see the desperation of these characters as they know they need to sign Jordan or Nike's basketball division is going to die. It adds a sense of tension and stakes to the film that I really enjoyed, and it allowed me to be emotionally invested in these people.
The movie also feels like a thank you letter to Michael Jordan. I don't think there's anyone watching Air that doesn't know who Michael Jordan is. Everyone watching this film most likely knows his legacy and what he means for the game of basketball, the sports world, and really just the world in general. There's a scene near the end where Matt Damon gives a speech to Jordan that gave me chills. Air makes you feel how much Jordan and his legacy has affected people. And it's great.
The movie is also a great little pieces of 80s nostalgia. I'm 16. I did not live in the 80s, but I love Stranger Things and all the other modern movies and shows that are set in the 80s. Air's soundtrack is full of great 80s music. The sets and costumes feel very 80s. The whole film was really just wrapped in this 80s aesthetic that I really loved, and I'm sure children of the 80s will love it even more than I did.
Finally, the movie does a great job of appealing to a broad audience. Not enough movies nowadays feel like true crowd-pleasers. A lot of modern movies require you to watch the 17 movies that came before this one or are based off of some niche that appeals to a specific audience. Air is the opposite of that. Everyone can watch and enjoy this movie. Old or young, sports fan or not, this movie is extremely accessible to you.
While I think Air is able to make most of these conversations and meetings interesting, not all of them are. There are definitely times where I felt like it dragged. There's a certain section right before Michael Jordan's family gets involved in the story that I felt was really slow and just kept repeating some beats that we'd already hit. So, while I do think this movie is very good, it definitely requires a bit of patience at certain points.
I also think we could've gotten a little bit more story than we got. Now, this is a difficult criticism to apply to a true story, but I have to. There is one plot line in this movie. Getting Michael Jordan to sign with Nike is the sole (no pun intended) storyline that we follow throughout. And I feel like we could've spiced things up by adding a subplot or two. Now, I understand that it's more difficult to add subplots when it's a true story, but you could've added more stuff about Sonny's life or Phil's life. I think it would've made it more interesting.
I also did minimal research on the true story behind Air, and, while I don't usually knock "biographical" films for not following the true story, Air definitely took some questionable creative liberties. If you look up the true story of Sonny Vaccaro and Michael Jordan signing with Nike, it seems a lot different than what Air portrays. Once again, this is upon doing minimal research, but I still found that strange.
Final Thoughts and Score
Air is another solid directorial effort from Ben Affleck and a great tribute to Michael Jordan's legacy while telling an interesting and compelling story of his signing with Nike.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 8+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 7.5/10
Directed by Ben Affleck
Rated R for language, thematic elements
Released on April 5, 2023
1 hour and 52 minutes
Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro
Ben Affleck as Phil Knight
Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser
Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan
Chris Tucker as Howard White
Chris Messina as David Falk
Marlon Wayans as George Raveling
Matthew Maher as Peter Moore
Julius Tennon as James R. Jordan Sr.
Damian Delano Young as Michael Jordan