"Air" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Nike's Air Jordan shoe brand is the highest selling shoe of all time, and it is widely thanks to the ultra-famous basketball star that it's inspired by - Michael Jordan. Because of this shoe, it launched Nike into one of the biggest companies in the world, which, before the shoe, was the laughing stock of the basketball shoe business. This story is presented wonderfully in Ben Affleck's latest directorial outing, "Air", which is loads of fun with great performances by its cast ensemble.
The movie opens with Nike practically on the verge of hitting rock bottom. Other shoe companies, such as Converse and Adidas, are sponsoring numerous star athletes, boosting sale due to that player's name on their shoes. Nike is now focused on trying to find a huge athlete to fill their shoes and help make them a global powerhouse clothing company.
That is when Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) has the smart idea to not split their budget up, but spend it all on one player - Michael Jordan. Vaccaro, who is a basketball expert, sees something in Jordan, and wants him a part of their team there at Nike. He is able to convince Nike CEO Phil Knight (Affleck) to pursue Jordan with their whole budget, and works with Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) and Peter Moore (Matthew Maher) to design the epic shoe that everyone knows and loves today. However, Jordan doesn't want to go with Nike; in fact, it's his last choice to make a basketball shoe around him. Hoping he can change Michael's mind, Sonny goes to his mother, Deloris (Viola Davis), in hopes he can convince the Jordan family to give Nike a chance.
Going into this movie, I thought it could go one of two ways - slow and drag through the runtime or actually be a lively and fun film based on a true story. Thankfully, the film is the latter, with a very enjoyable cast and surprisingly very funny. I think all of the actors here really give great performances as their real life counterparts, and make each and every character lovable and relatable in one way or another. Damon, Bateman, Chris Tucker, and Affleck are perhaps the standouts here, with Chris Messina giving a hilariously fantastic role as Jordan's manager, David Falk.
Here's the problem though - there is no Michael Jordan in this movie. Sure, there are shots of him turned around or not facing the camera, but we never see him or get to hear him speak. They almost portray Michael as a mindless robot following whatever his parents say. Whether this was due to Jordan not being apart of the film or a director's vision (which Affleck has stated in an interview that it was totally his decision to not have Michael apart of the movie), it simply doesn't work. Sure, Jordan has been caught in many scandals over the years, but this film portrays him in the light of him being a complete and utter asshole. I don't believe there is someone so big that they can't hire an actor to play him; they were able to cast Gandhi and Jesus in their respective films.
Other than that though, I think this movie does a great job of just telling the story. It doesn't rely on any fantastic story elements or effects, but simply is just a retelling of this story. Affleck does a great job as director, as he usually does, and the movie rolls at a very nice and quick pace. It feels like after a while, we are genuinely watching these real people try to close a deal with the biggest basketball star in the entire world.
As everyone knows, Jordan goes on to close the deal with Nike, making them perhaps the biggest shoe brand in history. This film not only shows how the shoe became so big, but shows the people behind all of this, giving them recognition that otherwise wouldn't have been known by many people. If I was any one of those Nike employees working on that shoe, I would have been incredibly proud, and then become even prouder when I see all of my hard work pay off on the screen. Affleck and his company does a great job of not only honoring the basketball legend and the shoe brand today, but the powerful people behind it.