To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Air is a sports drama film directed by Ben Affleck (The Town) from a screenplay written by Alex Convery. Featuring Matt Damon, Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis; the film is based on true events about the origin of Nike’s Air Jordan product line. The story follows Sonny Vaccaro, a talent scout for Nike who seeks to save Nike’s basketball division by signing rookie player Michael Jordan to a shoe deal with the company.
In 1984, Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) a talent scout for Nike attends a Bishop Gorman High School basketball game in Las Vegas, Nevada. After talking to some players Vaccaro heads to the strip to do some gambling; proving to be very good at sports gambling but terrible at craps. After leaving Las Vegas Sonny heads back to Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. He meets with Howard White VP of Nike Basketball Athlete Relations (Chris Tucker) about why players choose to sign with Converse and Adidas over Nike even though they offer more money.
Next, Sonny heads to a marketing meeting with Rob Strasser VP of Marketing Nike Basketball (Jason Bateman). They begin to discuss which of the upcoming draft picks they can get to sign with Nike. Knowing the top three picks will go to the competition, they focus on picks 5-20. When Bill (Billy Smith) says he likes the 6th draft pick, Melvin Turpin, Sonny berates him for selecting Turpin without actually knowing a lot about the player’s skills. Later in the bathroom, Sonny and Rob talk about who they are going to pick with Sonny mentioning the #5 pick, Charles Barkley not being a bad choice. After some more discussion, Rob reminds Sonny that their budget is $250,000 for three players and it’s Sonny’s job to find those players. Sonny tells Rob that they need to get more money, but is told they can’t. Sonny then brings up the idea of signing the #3 pick, Michael Jordan. An exasperated Rob says Jordan is too expensive and leaves the bathroom.
Most of the world knows who Michael Jordan is and of those who know of him a very high percentage consider him the greatest basketball player of all time and one of the greatest competitive athletes period. Because of this, Air Jordan is one of the highest-selling clothing brands of all time. A lot of people have owned at least one pair of Jordans in their life. Even I currently own a pair of Jordans, tucked away safely on my shoe shelf only to be worn on special occasions. For an athlete to be so popular that you can make a movie about his shoe deal is fascinating, to say the least.
Ben Affleck takes this premise and directs a palpable tale about perseverance. It’s also great to see him acting in movies with Matt Damon again. Their real-life friendship shows in their on-screen performances. You can feel every bit of desperation in Sonny’s voice when he speaks to Phil Knight (Affleck) about getting more money and Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis) about simply having her son take the meeting with Nike. With Sonny’s knowledge of sports, he knew that Nike’s basketball division would be terminated if they didn’t sign a truly remarkable player. Air definitely feels like an 80s movie without being overly nostalgic which works in its favor. Affleck also makes the bold choice to never show the face of Michael Jordan (Damian Young). He’s always in the background or obscured in some way. Even his voice is only momentarily heard at the end of the film. This was done at the request of Jordan himself, who wanted the movie to focus on his mother Deloris’ role in negotiating the deal.
That leads to how terrific the cast for this movie is. So many great actors pop in and out of the story with all making decent use of their time on screen. Deloris is a role that is most likely getting Viola Davis another Oscar Nomination as she is delightful. Chris Tucker deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his portrayal of Howard White. Tucker uses his comedy chops to show White as an inherently funny and heartwarming man. Marlon Wayans has a small but important part as George Raveling provides some wise advice to Sonny about how to potentially get Jordan to go for Nike. The rest of the ensemble cast is also incredible.
Air is also a very informative picture. I had no idea Michael Jordan was such a big fan of Adidas before signing with Nike. At the time Nike was responsible for about 17% of the market share for basketball shoes with Converse having the majority at 54% and the remaining 29% going to Adidas. Speaking of Adidas, I did not know that the name “Adidas” comes from the founder Adolf “Adi” Dassler’s name, who was a member of the German Nazi Party. (Kinda makes you think a little harder about Kanye’s most recent statements.) Nevertheless seeing how far Nike has come since then is an unbelievable underdog story that almost feels like a fairy tale.
Overall, Affleck delivers a well-acted, well-directed, well-crafted story in his return to the director’s chair. If you love Michael Jordan. If you love Nikes. If you love movies that cover the remarkable then this is for you. I give Air a Decent 8.2/10. I cant wait to see what movie he directs next but so far he and Damon’s newly-formed production company Artists Equity is off to a great start.