Air – Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Most people know the story of Michael Jordan. Still regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, and a sporting icon whose status has been cemented for generations. But Air doesn’t tell HIS story. It follows the prospective of Nike, who are falling far behind in the competition of basketball prospects.

Matt Damon stars as shoe salesman and sporting scout, Sonny Vaccaro, who is searching for a new shooting star to boost the sales of their failing footwear. We learn he’s a gambler, and as such is willing to make the biggest gamble of his life in young up and comer Michael Jordan. But he has to convince a host of people that this is a deal worth making and a risk worth taking. Including boss and CEO of Nike, Phil Knight (Ben Affleck), marketing VP Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), and executive Howard White (Chris Tucker), before moving to the Jordan family of mother Deloris (Violas Davis), father James (Julius Tennon) and the man himself, who they’re willing to create their entire brand around, Michael (played mysteriously by Damian Delano Young).


If you’re confused about that last comment that’s because Michael Jordan is never truly depicted. His presence looms, but is never palpable. He’s used as an idea and a subject of a brand and not so much as the person we know. A decision that makes it very clear that Air’s focus is on a small part of his big story, and those who worked hard to become a part of it. After all, how do you cast a face so recognisable? A question that left director Ben Affleck with such dilemma.

Set in 1984, Air lives in the era it’s set in. The vibrant cars and clothes and a soundtrack full of synthesisers and songs of the 80’s that play out like a greatest hits radio. Affleck’s snappy directing style works wonders with a script that is full of wit and one liners. As seen with Academy adored Argo (2012), Affleck knows his way around a true story, even those that may not seem like the most engaging on the big screen. Air is a sports drama that shows us the ins and outs of the shoe trade and marketing, much less about the more brandable sport of basketball which is prominent throughout.


It showcases a rare period in time where Nike were considered the underdogs, and how they scored a lucrative shoe deal that raised their revenue and turned that swish into undeniable success. But that also rings true with the movie Air itself, which on paper dances around the more interesting subject matter but refuses to divulge in it, instead given us this often comical but very clever drama, based around a story that most will be dismissive of.

Affleck’s Air has a lot of sole soul. Its story dedicates time to those who were there to be part of this bigger picture, but previously wouldn’t have had the platform to really be represented. Affleck’s direction paired with Alex Convery’s memorable script – and also his first for a major picture – and a cast list that doesn’t waste a single scene they become a part of, allows Air to reach for the stars. Damon, Davis and a powerful performance from Chris Messina as Jordan’s animated agent, favour most from the scenes they share.


The lack of Jordan can be jarring. His legacy is lifted through montages of a very memorable career, and his absence (certainly in key scenes) feels abnormal, but it’s a decision I ultimately admire, and Air works well enough without his powerful prominence.

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