4 1/2 Stars

Air (2023)

Matt Damon: We bought a shoe.

From the ages of 9-13, my closet was flooded with shoes. 

I can’t recall why I had so many shoes as a kid (being a small kid mean having a small shoe size, so I assume they were cheap), but I am sure I had some form of Air Jordans (most likely a hand me down): I do distinctly remember the dunking MJ silhouette. Did I think they would make me a better basketball player? Perhaps (I was never good at the sport), but there was no denying the fact that it would increase my cool factor in the class room (especially since I grew up in the Chicago suburbs.)

These times of my childhood were a little over a decade after the events of Air, the new film by Ben Affleck. Even though it takes place before my time, there is a clear authentic feel in the air (so to speak). Set in 1984 (as shown through a brief montage of the year’s events), the film’s main protagonist is Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), is tasked by his boss Phil Knight (Affleck) to make something of their failing basketball division.

 Even though Michael Jordan is the third overall draft pick (which is still a head scratcher to this day), Sonny is informed that not only is MJ unaffordable, but is not at all interested in Nike. Still, Sonny is willing to bet his whole career on it, even going to meet Jordan’s parents in person, mainly his mother Deloris (Viola Davis).

Affleck as a director is wise enough to let us see how different the world is in 1984, from corded phones to those little pre-gameboy sports games (before my time, though I am sure I had seen them before in my older cousins’ rooms growing up.) The same can also be true for the soundtrack of the film. I admit to not being the wisest when it comes to the use of songs in film, but even I can tell this film has some of the best mid 80s bangers imaginable.

All of the actors are on their A game here. Damon is one of those actors able to play both action heroes (the Bourne movies) and middle aged everyman with a gut hanging out. Along with Affleck, you also have the likes of Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, and Chris Tucker making the most out of every minute they are on screen, regardless how many minutes they have. Then, of course, there is the aforementioned Viola Davis, who the real Jordan insisted on playing his mother, and with good reason. She is truly one of the few people in Hollywood who can do no wrong.

While Damon and Affleck are themselves Oscar winning screenwriters (1997’s Good Will Hunting), the screenwriter here is a newbie to me in Alex Convery (I did check his IMDB, and it looks as though this is his first film). He no doubt had some help from Damon and Affleck (who also were producers on the film), but Convery does have a nice foundational first film to work off of for a Hollywood career. The film is not completely laugh out loud funny, but it is borderline a riot.

Parents, the movie is rated R for language and nothing more. If you have a kid even remotely interested in the subject matter that is of a mature teen age, I would say they are fine seeing this film.

One of the other key factors of the film (easily one of the best of the year so far) is the portrayal of Michael Jordan, or lack there of. We never see his face, only seeing him from behind and getting a few lines from him (thought there are a number of video footage of the real MJ on the court). The lack of showing him is something that was effective in the likes of last year’s She Said, when we never saw the face of Harvey Weinstein, and going as far back as the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, when we never saw the face of Jesus Christ.

(Never thought I would have written Michael Jordan, Harvey Weinstein, and Jesus Christ in the same paragraph, but in the spirit of NIKE, I just did it.)


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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