With Nike’s basketball division failing, sport marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) sets out to beat the competition – Converse and Adidas – and sign basketball rookie Michael Jordan.
Air fits into one of my favourite subgenres of film – people being really good at their jobs. There’s something really satisfying about seeing people work hard, believe in what they’re doing and working together. Plus, there’s the element of it being an underdog story which always works well in sports movies. It also does the most important thing a sports film can do, make a sport understandable and interesting for anyone, no matter how much or little they know about the sport which is basketball in this instance.
Air is superbly directed with director Ben Affleck making a bunch of phone calls absolutely thrilling. It’s a testament to how good the script is when it makes a story where you know the ending so engaging. It’s also a surprisingly funny film and is downright hilarious at times thanks mostly due to Chris Messina’s David Falk, Michael Jordan’s agent. Any phone call between him and Damon is excellent and usually a bit chaotic too.
The cast is all brilliant, everyone plays their roles perfectly and the chemistry between the guys who work at Nike and are working to make this impossible dream a reality is so good. These are characters who you believe have known and worked with each other for years – a small scene with a birthday cupcake highlights this wonderfully. Viola Davis is a standout though as Deloris Jordan, the matriarch of the family and the one who all these would-be sponsors have to impress. She captures the love and belief a mother has for her son so well, and in fact her believing in her son becomes almost the heart of the film.
Air is all about the men behind the deal that made Nike and Michael Jordan billions of dollars, it’s the beginning of a deal that would go onto change marketing and athlete endorsements. Air doesn’t touch on the negative side of that lasting legacy because the film ends after the deal is done, with none of them having any idea what’s in store for them and this shoe. I do recommend watching the documentary One Man and His Shoes (2020) after watching Air if you haven’t seen it already because that covers how Nike and Michael Jordan changed things but also how the shoes became a symbol and so desirable people would be willing to kill for them.
There’s a scene where Matt Damon gives a big persuasive speech and archival footage of the real Michael Jordan and his life is interwoven with it and it’s a really impressive and affective sequence. It really hammers home both the desperation Nike had as a company, and also how talented and influential Michael Jordan was and how some people could see that from the very beginning. It’s also the only sequence that hints at the highs and lows of this man and the potential ripple effect this deal and these shoes could have.
Air is a great film. It’s the proper crowd-pleasing kind of film that gets you invested, makes you laugh, and has both an incredible cast and a fantastic eighties soundtrack. It’d just so entertaining in a way I wasn’t expecting. 5/5.
Hi. You visited my Chariots of Fire post. I am excited about your dr. who posts. I am taking my wife to see Air tonight so I’ve bookmarked this post and will comment on my thoughts on the film later.