Disguised as an origin story of Nike and Michael Jordan’s partnership, Air is a reintroduction of director Ben Affleck that at its heart is a story about having purpose and believing in yourself.
Air transports its audience back into the year 1984 through crisp cinematography and period-appropriate montages, challenging them to forget everything that happens after that year and focus on 1984 as if it were present. Michael Jordan, at this point, is a rookie and the third overall pick in the NBA Draft, and Nike’s basketball division is a complete flop. Sonny Vaccaro wants to invest everything left that the division has into Jordan, but executives around him, such as Rob Strasser and Howard White, think Sonny’s plan is foolish. Even Nike CEO Phil Knight is not keen on the idea, but Sonny is dedicated to following through with his task.
Bringing Jordan to Nike will not be easy by no means, with larger, more illustrious shoe companies competing for Jordan’s attention. Vaccaro will need to find a way to Michael directly, and that is through his parents convincing him that after them, Nike is the place that believes in the power Jordan possesses. The stakes are set, if Vaccaro can’t get Jordan, then the basketball division is done, but if he succeeds, then he would change the world of shoes and potentially basketball.
What could be best summarized in a Wikipedia article is transformed into a compelling story with emotional stakes and tensions elevated by its supporting cast. This is a dream ensemble for any film with a plethora of actors who have been around forever and know how to get the job done. Everyone is on the same page with kinetic chemistry but is able to have room for fun with their characters. Many of them could have been one-dimensional archetypes to this simple narrative, but the actors go the extra mile to add layers that serve the story. Their performances speak well of how intuned their director is to the material. Matt Damon and Viola Davis remain the stars; they are playing up crucial moments that allow them to be breakouts. Davis is transcendent with adding in a layer of a mother believing in her son which results in a major shakeup with how athletes work with companies such as Nike. Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Ben Affleck appear to be having the time of their lives and fully disappear into the real people they are playing.
Affleck as a director still remains a mystery, but Air solidifies that the core foundation of all his films is his intelligence. Affleck’s direction paired with Alex Convery’s script creates a well-oiled machine of a movie that seamlessly runs through its plot hitting on emotional chords at the appropriate times. The script remains in an active tense that brings the story to life and draws you into the moment. It perfectly balances tones of humor while having a heart of standing up for what you believe in. The secret to a great historical film is that the audience forgets what the outcome will be, Air manages to do so but its overuse of winking references and 80s montages does take the viewer outside of the story. The grounded world created by the director of photography Robert Richardson and production designer François Audouy makes this world feel lived in. Affleck has every single correct element needed to make a great film and successfully delivers as seen through its critical acclaim. This film also holds weight as the first outing for Damon and Aflleck’s new company, Artist’s Equity, meaning it’s a safe play but a strong debut.
The mystery has been solved: Ben Affleck is an efficient director.
Likely: Best Original Screenplay
Should be Considered: Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Jason Bateman), Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis)
Release Date: April 5, 2023
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Lives in LA
Favorite Director: David Fincher
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