By: Amanda Guarragi
There are ways to define one’s career by the number of accolades and prestige one receives. However, defining one’s life is more complex because one is not measured by the greatness bestowed upon them but rather by the impact one makes when creating their path. In the 80s, Nike was not doing well compared to Converse and Adidas because NBA stars preferred their tracksuits and shoes over Nike. In 1984, Michael Jordan was one of the top three rookies teams, and brands wanted to sign him. One man named Sonny Vaccaro worked for Nike as a sports marketing executive who needed a win to bump Nike into a globally successful brand. He took a gamble on Jordan by building a shoe around him in his rookie season. Air, directed by Ben Affleck, is an inspiring true story about how Air Jordan shoes entered the market.
There is no doubting Ben Affleck’s directorial abilities because he knows how to craft a compelling narrative while pulling powerful performances from his actors. Not only did he authentically capture the essence of the 80s within the opening montage of all the great athletes and name brands from the decade, but he kept those references throughout. Newcomer Alex Convery wrote the screenplay with charm, wit and passion for the Nike brand and Michael Jordan. He chose to thread all the important aspects that went into branding for corporations and how life is one big gambling machine when it comes to making any decision. It was fast-paced and exciting to watch because of Matt Damon’s performance of Sonny Vaccaro. Damon embodied Vaccaro; you could feel his energy shift when he started talking about Jordan and what it would mean for the brand.
Of course, Affleck is talented enough to make business meetings engaging and tension-filled, which is always tricky. You have standout performances from the great Chris Tucker as Howard White and Chris Messina playing arrogant sports agent David Falk. Keeping these actors in the mix created a lively dynamic among the cast, including Jason Bateman as Rob Strasser. You could tell these characters lived and breathed basketball. All these actors knew the importance of Jordan’s story, and you could feel that Affleck and his team wanted to do this right. Viola Davis, who played Deloris Jordan, stole the spotlight in the second act when she spoke on behalf of her son. The film shifted from a corporate, capitalist ideology to a more intimate, family story because Vaccaro went for heart over greed. He bet it all on Jordan, and Deloris Jordan could tell the difference from other executives.
Air is an inspirational sports film that centres on the heart of Michael Jordan and his incredible career. What began as a Nike story quickly became about a rookie entering the NBA with talent and dreams. We learn that without Jordan, there would be no Nike, and the film shifts focus. To quote Deloris Jordan in this film, “A shoe is just a shoe until my son steps into it.” Air is a well-rounded sports biopic that combines the love of basketball, the career of an All-Star and a corporation that took a gigantic risk that paid off. This is a career-best directorial effort from Affleck because of the love and passion that went into telling this story. At times it was filled with great banter and sarcasm between characters that helped balance the stressful moments. On top of all that, it had a fantastic soundtrack filled with needle drops that changed the energy needed to fuel the next scene. This is one of the best films of the year. Do not miss this in theatres.