PG Score: 9/10
Air was released in theaters on 4/5/23
What Jordan Meant
Being a child of the 80s from New England should mean that Larry Bird was my favorite basketball player growing up, but he wasn't. I love him and he is an all-timer, but I was too young to appreciate what Bird and the Celtics did in the 1980s, not to mention too young to stay up and watch the NBA Finals. The rise of Michael Jordan coincides with me turning double digits and falling in love with basketball. The Lakers may have had Showtime, but there was something extraordinary that connected Michael Jordan to the youth of America, which is part of why he is still considered by many to be the G.O.A.T.
The Battle for MJ
MJ's story is well-known and his career speaks for itself, but Air takes us deep into the behind-the-scenes battle of which company would end up on Jordan's feet and the revolutionary change it would have on sports and the athletes that followed him. Directed by Ben Affleck (Argo) who pulls double duty as Nike founder Phil Knight, the film focuses predominantly on Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon (The Martian) as the driving force in signing Michael Jordan to Nike. Other than footage from his UNC days, we don't actually see Michael Jordan in this film, other than the back of him briefly once or twice. A wise choice for the filmmakers to keep him on the perimeter, as it paralleled the battle between shoemakers in getting Jordan to sign with them.
The casting for this film was next level. Damon was phenomenal, and even though we knew how the story was going to end, we were right there in the trenches with him hoping he was going to pull it off. Jason Bateman (Dodgeball) was excellent and worked really well with Damon. Viola Davis (Fences) plays the ever-important Deloris Jordan and is the central figure of the whole story, despite her limited screen time.
Rounding out the rest of the crew is the essential Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) as Howard White. Every actor brought their A-game for their roles. Bateman, better known for his comedic roles and his time on Ozark, balanced seriousness and humor well. Davis has been on fire the last few years, excelling in playing strong females; her casting was a large selling point in getting Michael Jordan to agree to the film. Tucker hasn't been in too many noteworthy films over the last few years, but his performance, while the weakest of the lot, is still quite enjoyable.
Nostalgia is sprinkled throughout the film and it works wonders. The music is the game changer. There is something about 80s music that makes it more appreciated now than when it originally came out. The first few minutes of the film focus on the sense of nostalgia and the music makes it very easy to fall into the film, signifying the period of time the story takes place. Combined with the performances, the story truly shines when all three are working in sync. Damon portrays Vaccaro as tenacious and unrelenting in his belief that Jordan is the next great thing. He is willing to go above and beyond what is accepted and expected of him, pushing the boundaries. Damon's performance should have him up for some hardware come next award season. Only time will tell if Air remains one of the top movies of the year.
Worth a Shot
Ben Affleck has a subtle style of directing. He lets the acting speak for itself and tells a wonderful story visually. Air captures the essence of Jordan's greatness without him ever being in the movie. You feel like you are truly alongside these characters as Nike takes the biggest shot in its company's history and nails the three at the buzzer. I recommend this movie for everyone to see. It doesn't necessarily need to be seen in theaters as there is nothing visually stunning about it and even has a bit of that 80s movie feel with the graininess. But I think Air is worth giving your money to in one way or another. In the words of Nike, Just Do It!