Air (2023)

March 28th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Ben Affleck; Cast Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, Matthew Maher, Damien Young; USA 2023, 112 min.

Director Ben Affleck teams up again with Matt Damon – this time to sell shoes. But this is no ordinary footwear, but the titular basket ball trainers that would kick Michael Jordan and ‘Nike’ to the top of their respective games.

It pays off that Affleck never reveals the actor who plays MJ – just a shot of the back of his head. AIR works hard to make us root for ‘Nike’, the sports shoe company that ranks third after ‘Adidas’ and ‘Converse’ in the sneaker hall of fame, the former being the favourite to sign MJ to the most lucrative deal ever – despite his rookie status.

Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro whose brief is to save Nike’s basketball division when the founder and his boss, Phil Knight (Affleck) tries to pull the plug on the whole division. Vaccaro is no sportsman and hates physical exercise, but when it comes to negotiation he is in the premier league and, in the pre-internet days of 1984 personality mattered much more than today and scriptwriter Alex Convery reflects this in some showcase scenarios for Sonny, not least with David Falk (Messina), Jordan’s agent, the villain of the piece.

One of the highlights is Sonny’s encounter with MJs mother Deloris (Davis), the only woman in this male-only talk show. There are fine performance from Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser, one of the company’s leading execs, and Matthew Maher as Peter Moore, the designer behind the famous shoes. DoP Robert Richardson does a marvellous job in the confined environment of the sports arenas, and the film gets out and about to the Jordan’s home for some fresh air. William Goldenberg’s editing is brisk, reminiscent of Argo. But there is a drawback: it’s one thing seeing American hostages escaping from post-revolutionary Iran in Argo – but watching a major company trying to outwit their competitors is hard work. And anyone familiar with the story knows how it all pans out. The good old boys of ‘Nike’ made profit-sharing for athletes possible, so it became obligatory for colleges all over the country to share the gains they made on selling sweaters with their students. But ultimately, watching shoes being sold by people with six or seven digit salaries is hard work, particularly when visual power is in short supply. AS


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