Production Companies: Amazon Studios, Skydance Sports, Artists Equity, Mandalay Pictures
Director: Ben Affleck
Producers: David Ellison, Jesse Sisgold, Jon Weinbach, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Madison Ainley, Jeff Robinov, Peter Guber, Jason Michael Berman
Scriptwriter: Alex Convery
Main Cast: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis
Release Date: April 5th 2023 (International)
Running Time: 112 minutes
Well, that was a surprising slam dunk. Terrible pun aside, Air really does catch you off guard with just how good it really is. Whether it’s Matt Damon’s performance or the slick directorial work from Ben Affleck, Air really does hit nothing but net at times. Now if only they had featured Viola Davis more and it could have been even better. Oh, well it still proves that Ben Affleck is a pretty decent director which makes me wonder what his Batman film would have been like… Also, mild SPOILER alert. Anyway, enough with terrible basketball puns let’s get into my review now.
Air tells the story of how Nike signed arguably the GOAT of the NBA, Michael Jordan, and thus created the most iconic shoe in history: The Air Jordan. More precisely, it follows Nike basketball scout Sonny Vaccaro (Damon) as he runs around Nike trying to convince not only his boss, Phil Knight (Affleck) but also the rest of the company, Michael Jordan’s agent David Falk (Messina) and the Jordan’s themselves that Nike can be a powerhouse of a brand to support Jordan. Honestly, there’s not really that much more I can do to summarise the plot but besides that let’s get into the analysis portion of the review now.
Ben Affleck’s Directing in Air
To begin my analysis of Air, I’m going to talk about Ben Affleck’s directorial work. And honestly, it’s pretty solid. A great example of this is how the film flows along. Basically, the film feels really smooth and moves at a good pace so as not to lose audience investment. Take for example, the reveal that Sonny went to the Jordan’s House to talk to his mother, Deloris. Sidenote, Viola Davis has a great performance but is quite underutilised. Anyway, by having Sonny visit the Jordan’s directly it adds more energy and drama into the film because the first hour or so is mostly Matt Damon rewinding tape recordings and business speak.
All of a sudden by having Sonny do something which could get him sacked, Affleck pulls the audience back in and keeps them invested. Another great example of his directorial work is the reveal that Adidas matched the offer. While anyone who’s clued in will realise Jordan signs for Nike, this reveal could have been used to plant a seed of doubt as to whether Michael would turn away from Nike, hence creating more drama and audience investment. Oh also, the fact that Affleck was probably directing himself when he’s on screen is another wonderful addition to the film.
Cinematography in Air
Next up, I’m going to discuss Air’s cinematography. A great example of Air’s cinematography is when the camera tracks Sonny’s feet after his call with Deloris Jordan. Basically, a huge selling point of the Air Jordan to Michael is that a shoe doesn’t mean anything until the person wearing it gives it meaning. So, by having the camera track Sonny’s shoes but only panning up afterwards it proves that point. Nobody in the audience would have cared or known that those were Sonny’s shoes because they could have been any of the Nike executive’s shoes.
Another example of the film’s good cinematography is when Sonny is watching the tapes of Michael Jordan play. The clever part of it is the camera slowly focussing onto Sonny’s eyes and his hand with the remote. Not only does this give the audience a POV of Sonny scouting Jordan but also it’s almost like the audience are discovering Jordan at the same time as Sonny. Oh also it feels like the film is almost trying to make the audience work out why the play was so successful by repeating it.
Matt Damon’s Performance in Air
To conclude my analysis of Air, I’m going to discuss Matt Damon’s performance as Nike basketball scout: Sonny Veccaro. And it’s pretty damn great which is a necessity given the fact we see the film’s events from his perspective. An example of his great performance is his phone call with the criminally underutilised Viola Davis. Despite the obvious upside to Nike signing Jordan in the deal which Sonny spends the whole film fighting for, Mrs Jordan’s request forces a wonderful moment of conflict with himself.
The clear confusion and hurt on Damon’s face is a great example of his emotive performance. Another great example of this performance is his impassioned speech to Michael and his family. Here, by focussing the camera solely on Sonny and everyone’s reactions to his speech the film maximises the emotional value of the speech. Also, this is aided by never showing Michael’s reaction to the speech hence adding more drama to the final decision. Oh, that speech could probably rank among some of the best in sports films so there’s a huge positive. Anyway, Damon gives a wonderful performance, often as the emotional anchor to the film.
To summarise Air, this is a very solid biographical account of Nike and Michael Jordan’s origin story as well as just being a solid sports film and a slam dunk. On top of this there’s solid performances from Damon and the rest of the cast though the underutilisation of Viola Davis does knock it down slightly. Also, bare in mind the film arguably out 80’s nostalgias Stranger Things which is pretty impressive. Oh, and the film definitely doesn’t have any subliminal capitalist messaging….
Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good
Target Audience: 15+
Content Warning: Severe Profanity