October 25, 2023

AIR: Well Played, Mr. Affleck

AIR (Blu-ray)
2023 / 112 min
Review by Stinky the Destroyer😺

Just in case one hasn’t noticed, Ben Affleck has turned into a pretty damn good director. Air might be the best evidence of that. That’s not to say it’s his best film. If not near-masterpieces, both The Town and Argo rank among the greatest adult thrillers of the past 20 years. But it takes a special talent to turn signing a shoe deal into an engaging film.

Taking place in 1984, Air recounts the true story of Nike talent scout Sonny Vaccarro (Matt Damon), who risks his career trying to sign college superstar Michael Jordan. Unlike big guns such as Adidas and Converse, Nike was mostly known for running shoes and put little financial effort into their basketball department. But Sonny sees greatness in Jordan and goes all-in in his efforts to snag him, which includes breaking professional protocols and defying Nike CEO Phil Knight (Affleck).

"I just asked Ben if his refrigerator's running."
Of course, everybody knows how things turn out. Nike’s now the biggest sports brand in the world, much of that success kickstarted by the Jordan brand. I don’t know if things actually went down as depicted in the film, but Affleck, screenwriter Alex Convery and a terrific ensemble cast turn the story into a hugely entertaining triumph-of-the-underdog movie. Sure, it’s about hucksters at a shoe company, but for a short time, we feel like the fates of nations are at stake.

Not every director has the chops to create a compelling film out of a business transaction, especially one where the outcome is a given. However, Air is an enjoyable, occasionally very funny look back at this historic deal, with great characters, insightful moments, authentic period detail and even a fair amount of tension. Well played, Mr. Affleck.

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