Review of Air written by Alex Convery and directed by Ben Affleck Rating *****
It wasn’t that long ago when a young Ben Affleck and a young Matt Damon stood on stage to accept an Oscar for their screenplay Good Will Hunting. They have since become major power brokers in the film industry. I’m glad to see that they are using some of that clout to get a movie like Air made.
This film is a showcase for everything these two talented actors have learned over the last fifteen years in the industry. The film belongs in the same category as Money Ball and The Big Short. There’s even a little Jerry Maguire in it. This is not to say that Air borrows from any of these other films. It has more to do with the ability to turn obtuse material into entertainment.
Air tells the story of how Nike, a small sneaker company at the time, signed a young college athlete named Michael Jordan to represent a new line of shoes – the Air Jordan. The story takes place in the mid-eighties, and Ben Affleck, who played Nike CEO Phil Knight and also directed, fills the screen with mid-eighties references from news clips to the eighties soundtrack.
The film is dialogue heavy, but each scene has some important detail to add to the story. Like who came up with the idea of calling the shoe Air Jordan, or the story behind the slogan Just do it. There’s even a story of how Phil Knight paid a graphic designer $35 to design the Nike swoosh logo. I give credit to the screenwriter Alex Convery for those gems.
Another thing notable about this film is how it is very much an ensemble piece. Everyone gets a chance to have their moment on screen, including Jason Bateman, Viola Davis, Chris Tucker, and Chris Messina. If I have one criticism, it’s that the film leans too heavily on what they believed Michale Jordan would achieve over his career. They very well could have believed he was destined for greatness, and thus worthy of the gamble, but too often the dialogue painted that prospect as a guaranteed outcome. As Matt Damon’s character Sonny Vaccaro says, he could just as easily blow out a knee before his career even begins.
Amazon Studios is behind the film, so it is destined for Amazon Prime in the not-too-distant future. See it on the big screen. You won’t be disappointed.