Ben Affleck has struck gold yet again with his amazing new film titled Air which catalogs that small window of time in 1984 when the less-than-popular Nike company signed the rookie Michael Jordan to their shoe line. With an all-star cast and one incredible screenplay from newcomer Alex Convery – Air is bound for all award consideration in a movie that heavily features fast-talking dialogue in office rooms. With Affleck’s artistic eye and a nostalgic love for the ’80s, this sublime comedy with heart is the underdog story that became the biggest brand name in the world due to one athlete. This is one utterly stunning movie from top to bottom.
There are not really any shots or sequences of any basketball game or play here besides a character watching somebody play on an old tube tv with all of its tracking in the way. Air survives on its quick-fire dialogue and delivery from its treasure trove of actors, including Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, and Marlon Wayans. Even though the world knows how this true story turned out, Affleck’s direction and Convery’s script add a great deal of suspense to this big decision. It’s truly phenomenal to watch unfold on screen.
These couple of weeks in 1984 start with Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), the Nike basketball scout finally seeing the magic in Michael Jordan and convincing the Nike CEO Phil Knight to invest their entire budget in him alone. Nike was not even the third-best footwear company in the business at the time, only having a small fraction of the market in the ’80s. Converse and Adidas still had the top shares in that arena. On top of that, Jordan himself was not a fan of Nike and was committed to signing elsewhere, which put Nike as the underdog in this journey to greatness.
As the movie plays out, Sonny’s insistence on putting everything on the line and gambling on one great hand, in this case, Michael Jordan, is something he has to convince not only Knight (Affleck) about, but also the head of the marketing of Nike (Bateman), and Jordan’s vicious agent David Falk (Messina) in coming to Nike. Howard White (Chris Tucker), an exec at Nike, and Jordan’s Olympic coach George Raveling (Marlon Wayans) are there to help Nike succeed because they too know how special Jordan was at the time before anyone else knew it. And Affleck displays the love and follow-through of all these characters to land this once-in-a-lifetime endorsement. Viola Davis plays Michael’s mother with the uttermost respect and grace as she handles everything business-wise with Jordan. Her ability to command a room full of men is displayed perfectly and earnestly and couldn’t have been done by anyone but Davis.
And the fact that Affleck used Michael Jordan as the Pulp Fiction briefcase MacGuffin in the movie where his face is never shown, nor does he speak are an amazing artistic choice that keeps the stakes high and the magical wonderment of this athlete large. Affleck’s attention to detail in the 1984 era is impeccable. From the excellent song cues of the ’80s to all of the hilarious neon wardrobe and candy, Air is full of surprises, excellent performances, and one amazing story. It’s one of the best films and is one of those rare cinematic experiences that can be enjoyed over and over again. Highest Recommendation.