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Air (12A)

Cast: Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Matt Damon
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Alex Convery
Director: Ben Affleck
Release Date: 05/04/2023
Running Time: 91mins
Country: US
Year: 2023

In 1984, Nike's basketball talent scout Sonny Vaccaro believes the company should invest its entire annual 250,000 US dollar budget in one prospect: 21-year-old NBA rookie Michael Jordan. His high-risk strategy is initially rejected by eccentric CEO Phil Knight and vice president of marketing Rob Strasser. Unperturbed, Vaccaro bypasses the player's agent and he travels to North Carolina to speak directly to Michael's parents Deloris and James.


LondonNet Film Review

Air (12A) Film Review from LondonNet

In writer-director Cameron Crowe’s 1996 feelgood comedy Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jr’s wide receiver Rod Tidwell encourages his beleaguered agent (Tom Cruise) to secure him a better contract deal by chanting, “Show me the money!” His plea to reward fairly an athlete’s sporting excellence in an industry that aggressively markets and merchandises its biggest names until their star has dimmed reverberates throughout Air. Set more than a decade before Jerry Maguire, director Ben Affleck’s nostalgic drama recreates the behind-the-scenes negotiations of the ground-breaking 1984 partnership between rookie player Michael Jordan and Nike’s basketball division…

The landmark agreement gave birth to the first Air Jordan but also granted an athlete a percentage of profits from every shoe sold for the first time. “A shoe is just a shoe… until my son steps in it,” Jordan’s formidable mother Deloris (Viola Davis) reminds Nike, coining her elegant alternative to the Tidwell mantra. Scripted by Alex Convery, Air inhales the stale machismo, sweat and desperation of Nike executives – underdogs at the time with a 17% market share of basketball sneaker sales behind Adidas and Converse – as they seek to change perceptions of their brand and disprove Jordan’s bullish agent David Falk (Chris Messina) when he jibes that world class players don’t wear third place shoes.

Leading the charge is Nike’s basketball talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), who believes the company should invest its entire annual 250,000 US dollar budget in one prospect: 21-year-old NBA rookie Michael Jordan. His high-risk strategy is initially rejected by eccentric CEO Phil Knight (Affleck) and vice president of marketing Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), who believe they should hedge bets on three or four players. Howard White (Chris Tucker), VP of basketball athlete relations, succinctly sums up the problem facing the company: “Nike is a jogging company. Black people don’t jog.”

Unperturbed, Vaccaro flouts protocols which require companies to negotiate with a player’s agent and he travels to North Carolina to speak directly to Michael’s parents Deloris (Davis) and James (Julius Tennon). “I am willing to bet my career on Michael Jordan,” explains Vaccaro when he returns to Nike headquarters in Portland to justify his actions. To win big, he requires a spark of genius from creative director Peter Moore (Matthew Maher) to design a sneaker prototype worthy of the player’s endorsement.

Bookended by archive footage and photographs, Air confidently dribbles through a condensed timeline, anchored by Damon’s winning performance. Affleck’s unfussy direction allows Convery’s snappy dialogue and sparkling chemistry between the starry ensemble cast to propel his film within shooting distance of the hoop before he slam dunks a climactic, heart-on-sleeve boardroom speech. At the end of the 1984 season, Jordan was named NBA Rookie of the Year. Affleck’s engrossing and crowd-pleasing picture soars in his shoes.

– Sarah Lee


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