TL;DR – This is both a well-acted and constructed film while also being one of the weirdest premises that I have ever seen for a biopic
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid to see this film
Air Review –
There are many feelings that you may want to elicit from your audience as they walk out of the cinema. It could be triumph, anger, joy, or even deep sadness. But today was a new one because I had never felt peculiar and odd when I walked out of the cinema before. A feeling of ‘well, that was fine … but what was that for?’. Well, this is the film that we look at today.
So to set the scene, it is 1984, and while the general Nike brand is doing well, their basketball division is in the slumps. No matter what they do, they can’t outperform Converse or Adidas, grabbing a measly 17% market share. It is so bad there is a strong suggestion they should shut this down entirely and focus on jogging where they make bank. Well, Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) has the plan to fix that. It just happens to be targeting the unobtainable Michael Jordan (Damian Delano Young). But Michael’s mother, Deloris (Viola Davis), his agent David Falk (Chris Messina), the other two companies, and even Sonny’s boss Phil Knight (Ben Affleck), might have a different view on the matter.
Because this film pulls me in two different directions, I thought I would explore them separately. The first is to explore the movie from a purely technical perspective. To say that this film is aggressively 1980s is probably underselling it, and to be fair, the entire process is started with an amuse-bouche of cultural touchstones to bring you back in time. However, the film builds upon this and recreates the most minor details. I have never seen a production nail what an up-market yet still business toilet would look like in the 1980s. They also bring the realities of talking over a landline into the narrative, given some electric moments when people are fixed in place yet animated beyond belief. There is a flow to the filmmaking and the film’s construction where you know there was a safe hand on the wheel during production.
While the production was one strength, the other was the casting. There is not a dud role in this film. For example, it was nice to discover that Chris Tucker kills it in a more dramatic role than I have seen before. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are out there bringing big dad-film energy to the proceedings. If you have ever seen any of Viola Davis’ work, then you know why the film pivots to her at every opportunity. Watching Matt and Chris Messina go at each other over the phone may have been the film’s highlight, and you could feel the energy in the room whenever that happened. Also, props to Matthew Maher for stealing every scene he was in.
However, while there are aspects of this film that I thoroughly enjoyed, there was also this part of my mind that sat there for the whole runtime, wondering what the film’s point was. When we boil it all down, we essentially get a biopic about how a multi-million-dollar company became a multi-billion-dollar company. This is an odd place to start with when we are at the best of times, and looking around the economy, it has awkward Undercover Boss energy but without self-awareness. It is compounded by the product they are depicting [the Air Jordan] being so well known that there is no tension because we know the outcome, and the stakes are not high enough to put that out of your head.
All of this leads to some interesting and flummoxing moments. For example, you never see Michael Jordan in a film other than archive footage. He is there, but he is always almost comically either out of frame or coming from behind. I know this was partly because the film was exploring more of Deloris’ role, and on that front, it works better than, say, King Richard. It also was so they could focus on the archive footage, but it still felt odd. Also, none of the three companies come out looking good in this film, to the point where I wonder how they got this past the lawyers. However, more than all of this awkwardness, the biggest disservice the film does is in the closing sections. It posits two significantly better ideas for a biopic, making you wonder why you sat through all this. Not the best endpoint.
In the end, do we recommend Air? Okay, look, this was always going to be a bit of a hard sell for me as I am not a basketball person, and my strongest connection with Michael Jordan was probably Space Jam. However, the core premise of this film, no matter how well it was presented, will still be a hard sell to people who don’t have a key interest in basketball, business deals, or shoes.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Air
Directed by – Ben Affleck
Written by – Alex Convery
Cinematography by – Robert Richardson
Edited by – William Goldenberg
Production/Distribution Companies – Amazon Studios, Skydance Sports, Artists Equity, Mandalay Pictures, Universal Pictures & Warner Bros. Pictures.
Starring – Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, Matthew Maher, Julius Tennon, Tom Papa, Joel Gretsch, Gustaf Skarsgård, Barbara Sukowa, Jessica Green, Dan Bucatinsky, Damian Delano Young, Jay Mohr, Al Madrigal & Michael O’Neill
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: na; Germany: 6; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R