Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The NBA’s official profile of the Chicago Bulls legend begins, “By acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” So it’s a testament to his all-consuming legacy that the movie Air is about a Nike salesman and his desire to sign Michael Jordan so they could market a shoe that nears his name. Of course, I’m talking about the Air Jordan, a global phenomenon first released to the public on April 1, 1985. The sneaker would not only transform the company but also change the industry in the way advertising contracts with sports stars are written.

Air is not a Michael Jordan biopic — though the chronicle tangentially concerns the champion. His presence is deemphasized to focus on the various corporate creatives involved. Our story here is constructed around Sonny Vaccaro, played by Matt Damon, who works for Nike and is willing to bet their entire budget and his career on the basketball player. The rookie had played for North Carolina in college and was now entering the NBA. In this case, the concept will be different. The man is not simply going to advertise an already existing sneaker. Nike will create a shoe that bears Michael Jordan’s name because he inspired it. Ben Affleck not only directs but also has a supporting role as Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike. The ensemble of business executives also includes Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, and Chris Tucker.

Nike looms large over the athletic footwear world. It’s hard to believe now, but back in 1984, the company was struggling. It was a distant third to Adidas and Converse. Both had more cachet. In fact, Michael Jordan wore Converse while playing for the University of North Carolina. So the drama comes from Nike being so much smaller than its competitors at the time. Persuading him to sign with them over another athletic brand would take significant effort. This also involves talking to his parents. Actress Viola Davis has a memorable part playing his mom. At one point, Sonny says, “A shoe is just a shoe,” and Mrs. Jordan replies, “Until my son steps into it.”

Air is an entertaining record about the most successful athlete-endorsement deal in history. It also would have lasting repercussions on how these agreements were structured and written. The account benefits from an intelligent screenplay by Alex Convery. Ben Affleck’s fable relentlessly mines period detail to accentuate the spirit of the 1980s. The opening intro is an amusing montage of cliches. A soundtrack of catchy scene-specific needle drops plays nonstop throughout. Anyone who needs clarification on how this turns out hasn’t been a resident of planet Earth for the past four decades. Sure, it’s predictable, but that’s not the saga’s strength. It’s a feel-good tale about people who excel at what they do. A surprisingly old-fashioned approach in 2023, but in the best possible way. Do you still need convincing to see this movie? Just do it.


7 Responses to “Air”

  1. I enjoyed this. No mystery, no surprises except trying to guess which song was coming next. They were so literal. 3 1/2 stars ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

    • The song selections were hilariously on the nose. When they were waiting to see whether Michael Jordan would accept their offer, I knew they would play Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time.” 😂


  2. Clever last line 😉 I like it. I’m looking forward to checking this out with my dad tomorrow. He’s not into basketball but does appreciate a smartly told story, and it sounds like this will work

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed this movie, another Matt and Ben success!

    Liked by 1 person

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