AIR review by Mark Walters – Ben Affleck & Matt Damon reunite for the story of Michael Jordan’s shoe legacy

AIR review by Mark Walters – Ben Affleck & Matt Damon reunite for the story of Michael Jordan’s shoe legacy

Telling the story of Michael Jordan’s rise to fame, AIR features an all-star cast, including Matt Damon as maverick Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro, Ben Affleck as Nike co-founder Phil Knight, and Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan. Some might wonder if a movie about Nike and their signature shoe can really be all that engaging, but the end result is surprisingly smart and funny. This film also reunites Affleck and Damon, and marks the first time Affleck has directed his longtime friend and collaborator.

Set in 1984, Nike was at the time falling behind in the shoe game, coming in behind companies like Adidas and Converse. They needed a win, big time. Basketball shoes seemed to be the future, and the hot new player was Michael Jordan. Nike recruiter Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) saw him as a potential match made in heaven for the company, but everyone within Nike said he was too expensive to sign. Vaccaro decides to pursue him anyway, and discovers his mother Deloris (Davis) could be the key to winning him over. Now with time running out for Nike to stay afloat, Vaccaro must figure out if they even stand a chance in getting any attention from the up and coming NBA superstar.

Everyone in this film feels incredibly authentic and honest, which is impressive with such a diverse and interesting cast. Matt Damon is excellent in the lead playing Sonny Vaccaro, a man who is quickly becoming an obsolete sort of company man, but also does the one thing he knows how to do… and clearly still sees the importance of his place within the machine. And Chris Tucker and Jason Bateman do a terrific job of playing his fellow company men, and Affleck is great playing a small but important role as the head of the company. Viola Davis really brings home the gravity of the story playing Michael Jordan’s mother, who clearly helped decide the direction things moved in for her son. Chris Messina is perfect as Michael’s agent David Falk, a cocky but understandably cautious man who may be hitting the end of his career by choice. Everyone here is giving it their best, and it makes the overall production shine brightly.

AIR tells the fascinating story of an important moment in cultural history from the late 20th century, even if some view it as just a tale about a shoe. The financial and pop culture impact of the deal between Michael Jordan and Nike defined not only the footwear company for decades to come, but became a point of fascination for multiple generations of basketball fans. The “wrap up” text at the end of the film even notes how the original Air Jordan shoes saw hundreds of millions of dollars in sales, when Nike’s previous record was a fraction of that. And this was an incredibly risky venture, as it easily could have buried the already fledgling company had the public not seen the value in it, or Jordan had not before the superstar player that he did.

Because we know the outcome of the real life story, there is perhaps less tension in the film’s narrative, but the journey we experience on screen keeps it all entertaining and fun. This once again proves Ben Affleck’s strength as a director, and how he can make what might seem like an ordinary story seem very fascinating. AIR will likely be considered one of the best films of the year, and for good reason, as it has all the ingredients of good cinema… even if it is ultimately just the story of a very famous shoe.

AIR opens April 5, 2023

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.