Film Review: “Air”


Screengrab from: “Air“.

Directed by Ben Affleck, “Air“ is a bio- graphical sports drama about the creation of Nike‘s Air Jordans. It‘s known as a classic underdog story and is in theatres now.

Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer

Ben Affleck directs and stars in “Air”, a biographical sports drama about Nike’s iconic Air Jordans, alongside his lifelong friend and collaborator Matt Damon.

This lighthearted film based on a true story takes us through Nike’s creation of one of its most popular shoes and how the company built an entire line around a single player. The story is centered around Nike’s talent scout, Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) a middle aged divorcee workaholic who wants to bank the company’s budget on one young basketball up-and-comer from North Carolina. 

Being a big risk for the company which was in tough competition with more popular brands like Converse and Adidas at the time, arrogant Nike CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) initially disapproved of this unconventional method. Sonny knew that this Jordan kid had something special and wasn’t willing to give up on his star potential. His (and Damon’s) charisma was able to convince the rest of the Nike team to stop at nothing to get Michael Jordan to wear their shoe.

Though we all know how this story ends, the movie manages to keep the audience hooked from start to finish. For a film that is essentially a just series of meetings, “Air” manages to be incredibly entertaining. This is likely due to the charisma of just the right cast of talented actors. The same film with a different cast would not have worked nearly as well.

The reunion of Affleck and Damon makes for amazing on-screen chemistry, even if their characters are often at odds with one another. The pair have a long history of acting and collaborating together, and have managed to stay close friends through their growing stardom. This film is the first time that Affleck has directed Damon, which marks a notable point in their careers. 

Rounding out this ensemble is Jason Bateman who provides his signature dry banter, Chris Tucker a constant source of comic relief, and Viola Davis who shines in a powerfully dramatic performance balancing out her goofier co-stars. The acting is certainly a clear highlight of the film, but there are some notable moments of cinematography as well.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson (who often works with acclaimed directors Tarantino and Scorsese) lends his cinematic craft to this film, elevating the project to a high level of prestige especially shown in an inventive use of rack focus during conversations. The filmmakers make the call to not show Jordan’s face but instead just show the back of his head or shots from his perspective which some have criticized. Though some of the shots are jarring, the focus on the behind-the-scenes rather than the star himself was a compelling angle to take the story.

“Air” is sold as a drama about basketball, but really it is more than that. It’s a classic underdog story about having hopes and chasing dreams. Mixed in with waves of 80s nostalgia, iconic needle drops and lighter comedy, “Air” is a crowd-pleasing mid-budget sports drama.

Watch “Air” in theaters now.