Alex Reviews "Air"
It may be a surprise for people to learn that the world’s current undisputable leader in basketball gear almost blinked out of existence in the early 1980s, but Nike was on the brink of exactly that. Sonny Vaccaro changed all of that by sticking to his guns and signing a potential NBA all-star out of the University of North Carolina, and that story is brought to the big screen in Air.
Ben Affleck returns to the director’s chair for the first time in seven years and also portrays Nike’s co-founder and CEO, Phil Knight, in his funniest movie this century. Despite how the trailers play and how it seems to being portrayed, I really am seeing this as a comedy with some dramatic portions due to the number of laugh-out-loud moments I had in the theater. Matt Damon is also here as the aforementioned Vaccaro, and he fits perfectly down to his frumpy appearance. Damon is truly enjoying himself in each and every scene he is in with a performance that is natural, brilliant, and (yes) hilarious. From the “awe-shucks” demeanor he shows scouting a tournament, a ball-busting best friend, or even the most loyal-to-his-friends-and-coworkers guy EVER, it all works. Even in moments where he knows that metaphorically the sword of Damocles is hanging over his head given the gamble hie is taking by his desire to sign the man who would become their most famous client ever in Michal Jordan, I felt his empathy even in moments where he doesn’t say a word.
As entertaining as Damon is, Viola Davis commands the screen as only she can even in the scenes they share, which is a credit to both of them for how they work with one another to present who is the boss and who is the customer. Befitting the crux of the story being that Michael Jordan was always in control and knew exactly who he was and what he would become at all times, the GOAT does not make mistakes. Jordan requested two people be included as characters in the movie, but Viola Davis playing his mother was a requirement which makes total sense in her calm, assertive delivery that fits perfectly with all we know about Deloris Jordan. As with many of her appearances, it is impossible to imagine anyone but the EGOT winner handling this role.
I would love to go in depth about how awesome the use of songs is as well, but I feel that my thoughts would pale in comparison to the musical knowledge of our host and executive producer. I loved how each and every song flows between the characters and provided representation, but I will defer to his review, which you can find right next to mine on our website.
My only gripe here is with Affleck’s direction itself visually. While I can understand shooting in particular ways to give a grainy appearance matching the timeframe of the story, there are multiple tight shots and close ups that felt very strange, most notable in a pivotal conversation in a bar that is so zoomed in I could see both actors' pores with quick cuts that didn’t work. I get that the cuts were to focus on the actor speaking at the time, but a couple of longer shots would have made things less jarring.
Air is simply one of the most enjoyable movies in recent memory where every portrayal shows how the actors cared, enjoyed, and expressed themselves throughout while leaning into a known story. It was an experience that was so much fun that I cannot wait to see it again, even if only to confirm that the matchbox car on Matt Damon’s computer is a call back to his role in Ford vs. Ferrari.