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Air

Updated: May 12, 2023


Bathed in neon 80's atmosphere, laughter and surprising suspense, AIR is a classic sports movie that inspires.

As the lights go down, Dire Straits "Money for Nothing" rolls in and you're bathed in a montage of all things 1984. I lost count of how many times I thought "I had one of those!" or "WOW I haven't seen that in forever...".

Director Ben Affleck nails his role behind the camera and in front of it as Nike owner Phil Knight. As a proven director (Argo, The Town, the vastly under appreciated "Live By Night")

Affleck's sure hand guides a story that we all know, crafting it into a suspenseful character study of sports, family and business.

Knight is a philosophy spouting quote machine in his corporate office, carving out a successful but stalled empire on the opposite coast from his major rivals Adidas and Converse.

His basketball shoe division is weak and declining, a dangerous combination for his new hire Sonny Vaccaro. Vacarro (a perfectly cast and paunchy Matt Damon) is a college basketball savant who spends more time ridiculing the rest of the clueless Nike staff than he does driving new sales.

Jason Bateman is at his best as Marketing head Rob Strasser, a fountain of cliches and positivity on the sinking decks of the hoops division.

Everything changes when Sonny is inspired by college phenom Michael Jordan.

Told that Jordan is too expensive for Nike to get and that Jordan has zero interest in wearing their brand, Vaccaro bets his career and goes all-in on landing him.

Viola Davis is Best Supporting Actress worthy as Michael's Mom Deloris Jordan. She's clearly the one in charge. Julius Tennon brings heart and humor as Michael's dad, James Jordan. James is loving his journey but wisely leaves all negotiations to Deloris.

Chris Messina is hilariously over-the-top as sports agent David Falk, who gives Sonny merciless hell on his methods.

Chris Tucker nearly steals the film as Howard White from Nike. Tucker's an underrated actor and he delivers huge laughs and plenty of heart as well.

As my buddy Gregg said as the lights went up, "no one plays the every-man better than Damon." Exactly. Damon is excellent as Vaccaro, balancing balls and desperation in his quest to sign Michael. A quiet scene at a picnic bench in the Jordan's backyard is one of the best set pieces in newcomer Alex Convery's screenplay. Deloris & Sonny spar quietly and perfectly. It's a show off moment with two great actors delivering great lines and it's the perfect catalyst for the last half of the film, with Sonny telling Deloris exactly how the Adidas and Converse pitches to sign their son are going to pan out.

Matthew Maher delivers big laughs and doses of quirk as Nike shoe designer Peter Moore, detailing his obsession with shoes and the history of footwear with passion.

The Nike boardroom presentation to Michael and family is a highlight and the film delivers another turn when a decision isn't quite a decision until it takes a fascinating turn that changed sports and licensing forever.

Affleck and team deliver plenty of history at the end of the film, along with some jaw dropping facts about the 40 year legacy of the decisions and events we've just seen portrayed.

Jordan is never seen except for a young actor from behind walking into a scene or stepping into a car. This pays off well when the conclusion shows clips of the real Michael doing all things Jordan!

The man is the greatest basketball player of all time. Let's end that debate here.

Take a two-hour trip back to 1984 for one of the most enjoyable sports films in recent memory. Funny, inspiring and powerful, AIR soars its way to a B+.





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