Air (Ben Affleck, 2023, USA)

Air is the latest film from Ben Affleck. Affleck's career has been devoted to films that used to get made all the time, but now feel rarer - adult dramas with big budgets. Ultimately what separates Air from a run-of-the-mill Netflix movie about the origins of the Air Jordan sneaker is the budget - purportedly $70 to $90 million. And that budget is going toward the film's A-list cast - Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, and others. The film is polished and well-crafted, and for those interested in sports history it will surely be an enjoyable experience.

Air tells the story of the fledgling basketball sneaker division at Nike, a company that in the early 1980s was losing heavily to Adidas and Converse. Our protagonist, Sonny Vaccaro (played by Matt Damon), decided to make a bet on the third-round draft pick - Michael Jordan. The film hammers home how this was a risky decision for a company that was - under the leadership of CEO Phil Knight - thinking of axing its entire basketball division entirely at the time. The film decides to never show Jordan directly - though he is present at key points during the film.

Instead, Viola Davis as Jordan's mother Deloris is the main mouthpiece for him, and we are shown how she renegotiated the terms of the deal so that Jordan would get royalties from the sale of the sneaker. Air is well-crafted, though it doesn't hold many surprises and is mainly a cheering round for the Nike corporation. While there is a meta-level to the film, it is much more concerned with the direct matter of getting the deal with Jordan. This leaves a lot on the table thematically, but the film is at least entertaining and briskly paced enough to warrant a watch.



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