It’s time to return to the 1980s with Air, a movie based on the true story of a Nike employee seeking to strike a business deal with a rookie basketball player named Michael Jordan. If you know anything about sneakers, or even if you don’t, you likely know the outcome of Sonny Vaccaro’s journey to develop a shoeline called the Air Jordan. You may wonder why you should bother watching a movie where you know exactly how it will end. However, Air is an uplifting sports drama with superb writing and performances that allow it to make for an entertaining watch.
After the opening montage, which should fulfill your need for ’80s nostalgia, we arrive in 1984, where Nike is on the verge of bankruptcy and must come up with a new shoeline based on the successful basketball players of the time. Alex Convery pens this firecracker script in his first professional writing credit. He has some fun with some hindsight jokes surrounding NBA players like Charles Barkley and John Stockton while laughing with us at some of the other options Nike was considering developing a shoe around. Sonny (Matt Damon) is a talent scout who establishes his intelligence while knowing the right basketball players to go after.
After watching a clip of Jordan on the court, Sonny sets his eyes on him, convinced that he will become the greatest basketball player of all time and that they should develop a shoe around him. It may seem like a no-brainer now, but Air tells the story of an impossible journey. Sonny needed to convince Nike to devote their entire $250,000 basketball budget to one single player who was a fresh face in the NBA looking to sign with Adidas. This isn’t a movie where you wonder whether Sonny will succeed. This is a movie where you are invested in how he will succeed.
Air is a slam dunk. This movie is filled with vibrant characters from excellent performers. Damon is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood for a reason, as he appears in every scene in this movie. He carries a fierce determination with him and gets the audience on his side. Damon also reunites with his long-time collaborator Ben Affleck following their work on Good Will Hunting and The Last Duel. Affleck directs, co-produces, and co-stars in the film as Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike, and he brings charm to his role as well.
Remember when Ben Affleck was that wide-eyed young man who ran on stage with Matt Damon to accept the Oscar…
The star-studded supporting cast makes this a phenomenal watch, as we are graced by comic actors like Jason Bateman and Marlon Wayans. In addition, Chris Messina gets a hilarious role as the loudmouthed, profane David Falk and Chris Tucker returns to the big screen for the first time in years as Howard White. But it should come as nobody’s surprise that Viola Davis is the scene-stealer here. She exudes so much power and control in her roles, and she does the same here as Deloris, the mother of Michael Jordan. Her ability to command the screen while staying naturalistic is beyond words, and she is a highlight of the film.
Furthermore, the best scene in Air is when it’s time to make the pitch to MJ himself. The film builds up to this scene, and it becomes a standout. Affleck makes the interesting directorial choice to hide Jordan’s face because you can’t have an actor play the greatest basketball player of all time without killing your credibility telling this story. This story is about pushing through in the face of adversity and is a delight from start to finish.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Great.” While there are a few minor issues, this score means that the art succeeds at its goal and leaves a memorable impact.