April 5, 2023 / Warner Bros. Pictures Canada
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina,
Chris Tucker, Viola Davis
From award-winning director Ben Affleck, AIR reveals the unbelievable game-changing partnership between a then rookie Michael Jordan and Nike’s fledgling basketball division which revolutionized the world of sports and contemporary culture with the Air Jordan brand. This moving story follows the career-defining gamble of an unconventional team with everything on the line, the uncompromising vision of a mother who knows the worth of her son’s immense talent, and the basketball phenom who would become the greatest of all time.
Written By Darren
Rating 5 out of 5
Air is a prime example of why audiences love cinema: it’s a crowd pleasing film, bringing to life the story of how Nike changed the sports industry forever with their historic signing of Michael Jordan, with outstanding performances from the entire cast under the excellent direction of Ben Affleck!
Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player the world has ever seen, achieving a legendary status in not only the sports world, but in popular culture in general. Everyone knows Nike’s Air Jordan, Michael Jordan’s signature shoe line, but the story behind the Air Jordan is a truly fascinating story. It has all the hallmarks of a great sports biopic, but instead of focusing on the athlete, Air focuses on Nike executives and their courting of Jordan in what is easily the best film of the year and one that we will be talking about come awards season at the end of the year. It is a truly crowd pleasing film that you do not need to be a basketball fan to fall in love with, guaranteed to be a runaway success when it opens.
The year is 1984, and Nike’s basketball division is considered the worst in the business and is in financial trouble. Unable to secure any of the top draft picks to endorse, they are trying anything to find new athletes to represent their brand in this year’s draft lineup. But, Sonny Vaccaro has a drastic idea to save Nike: to put all their resources behind one player and create a brand around that individual. And that player is a rookie with no NBA experience. His name: Michael Jordan. Going against all odds or reason, as Michael Jordan is adamant on wanting to sign with Adidas, Vaccaro and Nike go to all measures to sign Michael Jordan, not realizing that they are about to change the sports history forever.
True stories like this story always make for great, crowd pleasing films. Largely, this is thanks to Alex Convery’s screenplay which captures the stakes, emotions and suspense of Nike trying to sign Michael Jordan. Even knowing the end result, there was a palpable energy throughout the film that immediately hooks you and keeps your eyes glued to the screen for the film’s entire run time. It is filled with laugh out loud moments, moments where I found myself in an heightened emotional state hoping they would land Jordan (despite my brain knowing full well they did), and inspirational moments that make a strong biopic ranging from Vaccaro’s first meeting with the Jordans, talking about the design of the shoe we all know that will become the Air Jordan, or the official pitch meeting during which Nike presents Michael Jordan with a career changing offer.
Especially the official pitch meeting, which is a whirlwind of emotions, inspirational speeches and watching history unfold on screen, making for the best scene of the entire year to date!
One thing that Convery’s screenplay and Ben Affleck’s direction handle incredibly well is how they use Michael Jordan. And the trick is that they barely use him, with only a few lines of dialogue from him and the rare full shot of him throughout the film, saving his presence to make an impact on the story as needed. There is a protective nature around Michael Jordan, not letting his star power distract from the story, and giving the spotlight to his mother Deloris Jordan. Michael Jordan has been vocal throughout his career how important his mother is to him and how she helped shape him to be the person he is today, and the film captures this at every point. Bringing to life Deloris is the sensational Viola Davis, who gives an outstanding performance. Davis captures Deloris’s love for her family with her strong business sense of what her son’s worth is at every turn with a quiet yet tender performance. There is no doubt in my mind that despite only being a supporting role, that Davis gave the best performance of the film with a few Oscar worthy moments that should have her in talks for a nomination for Best Supporting Actress come the end of the year.
Aside from Davis, the rest of the cast is equally as impressive. Leading the all star cast is Matt Damon as Vaccaro, and he gives a truly exceptional performance that is one of his best performances in years. Throughout the film, Damon embodies Vaccaro’s determination that he is right about Jordan despite everyone telling him what he wants to do is unprecedented and will cause him to lose his career. Damon brings a humanity to his character, showing Vaccaro’s dedication to those he chooses to champion rather than being a cold, calculating business man only concerned about the bottom line. Affleck himself is great as Nike CEO Phil Knight, delivering some great moments throughout the film as he questions Vaccaro throughout his pursuit of Michael Jordan, despite never for a second not believing in his friend. Jason Bateman and Chris Messina round out the supporting cast, with Bateman sharing great moments with Damon’s Vaccaro and showcasing his great dramatic range, while Messina is the comedic relief of the film as Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk and is guaranteed to have you dying of laughter when ever he is on screen.
Tying the film together is Affleck’s masterful direction, proving yet again why he is one of the most talented actors currently working in Hollywood. Affleck remains from going large throughout the film, grounding the story in the stories of the individual characters and the emotional stakes of the film, allowing his cast to soar. By doing so, Affleck allows his passion for this story to leap off the screen at every turn, ensuring that this is far from your average biopic and a film that audiences are instantly going to fall in love with. It is easily the strongest film he has directed to date, and his best collaboration with Damon since Good Will Hunting.
We’re only three months into 2023, but there is no doubt in my mind that Air will remain one of the best films of the year come December when everyone is making their best of the year lists. From the second the film stars, Ben Affleck’s direction and Alex Converys’s screenplay create an incredibly entertaining and moving cinematic experience that will raise your spirits with this incredible true story about one of the greatest athletes of all time and a shoe company’s pursuit of him. Brought to life by sensational performances by the entire cast, notably the compelling and sensational Viola Davis and excellent Matt Damon, Air is a true cinematic slam dunk that is guaranteed to have you cheering in your seats!