Air – Film Review

Bateman, Affleck, and Damon! With a cast list like this there is no way you can go into Air and not expect some brilliant performances. Add that to my love of NBA basketball and not surprisingly, I was excited about this film.

Air sees Ben Affleck step away from his staple of directing crime thrillers but that doesn’t mean a reduction in his quality. No, once again Affleck manages to bring suspense and drama to the fore, and yes, I am talking about a movie that largely centres around how NBA legend Michael Jordan’s relationship began with the brand that made him a household name – Nike.

Technically the film centres around the core team at Nike way back in 1984. There is company founder and CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck), Nike’s Head Of Basketball Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) and recruiter Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon). Together, they have been charged with saving Nike’s Basketball Department.

See back in 1984, Nike was not the company that it is today. Converse was the official shoe of the NBA while Adidas was the shoe the kids on the streets were wearing. Nike was the shoe that runners wanted to wear but were considered a joke amongst basketballers. With the Board of Directors ready to give up on basketball, Knight and Strasser demand that Vaccaro sign someone that will keep them in business. And so, Vaccaro picks an under-rated rookie named Michael Jordan who has no interest in Nike at all.

Despite my love of all things NBA, I was quite hesitant going into Air. Would this be a walking billboard for Nike disguised as a film? How can a story that is basically about product endorsement hold my interest for 2 hours? The answer turned out to be with a winning combination of an amazing cast and one of the finest directors of our generation.

I was surprised to learn that screenwriter Alex Convery was a rookie. His screenplay is largely dialogue driven but builds a suspense that had me hanging on every word. Powerful scenes between Damon and Bateman drip with human emotion while I found every scene Damon shares with Viola DavisDeloris Jordan to be well-written cinematic masterpieces.

There is no doubt my love for the NBA enhanced my viewing experience of Air. When names like Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton were thrown around the Nike offices, it did help that as a fan, I knew about their personalities, weaknesses, and the strengths that they had. And I doubt non-NBA fans will get the true meaning of things like “Larry Bird is Converse but Michael Jordan will be Nike”. But with Air, its strength that there is enough in the plot to hold the interest of non-basketball fans. After all, at the root of this film is the relatable story of a man working hard to save his career and livelihood.

The other thing I loved about Air was the fact that Affleck has made this film a love letter to the 1980s. From the fashion, through to the video games we were playing, Affleck incorporates it all subtly enough to be enjoyed but without over-saturating the film. Then of course there is the amazing 80s soundtrack that I will confess was downloaded onto my phone the very moment I left the cinema.

What will stay with me the most about Air, however, is the power of the screenplay and the performances it helps generate. Matt Damon and Jason Bateman are in Oscar winning form while Viola Davis packs an amazing amount of power into her role. She is truly amazing in as Michael Jordan’s mother and her scenes with Damon are some of the most powerful that I believe I will see in cinema this year.

Air could have been a complete train-wreck, especially at a time when audiences are wary of corporate greed. Instead, Alex Convery and Ben Affleck have created a powerful and dramatic film that at times feels like it was written for the stage. Air is one of the best films of the year, has one of the best screenplays I have seen in a long time and it is only lifted further by electric performances from Davis, Damon, and the rest of the cast.

I still can’t believe how much I loved this film and I can’t wait to see it again.

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