Sunday, September 17, 2023

Air (2023 film)


Directed and co-starring Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery, Air is the story about the origin of the Air Jordan shoe line by Nike and how an employee from Nike makes a discovery about the then-unknown Michael Jordan and to build a shoe line around him. The film is about the creation of a shoe line that wouldn’t just save Nike from shutting down but create something that would play a key role in the world of popular culture. Also starring Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, and Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan. Air is a riveting and exhilarating film from Ben Affleck.

Set in 1984, the film follows talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) who works for Nike’s basketball division as it is on the verge of shutting down due to low sales where he decides to bet on an idea in the hope of saving the division by building a shoe line for a future NBA prospect in Michael Jordan. It is a film that is about the creation of the Air Jordan shoe line and its origins as well as the impact it would have on Nike at a time when they were falling behind other competitive rivals in Converse and Adidas as Nike’s CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) was forced to lay off people ever since the company has gone public. The film’s screenplay by Alex Convery, with un-credited contributions from Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, is largely straightforward in its narrative as it follows Vaccaro who is tasked by Knight and marketing VP Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) to come up with a new spokesperson for Nike’s basketball shoes with a limited $250,000 budget. Yet, the choices he is given aren’t impressive with the exception of Charles Barkley while trying to nab Michael Jordan is impossible as he has already expressed interests from both Converse and Adidas who are preparing to make their offers.

While re-watching the 1982 NCAA championship where Jordan scored the winning shot, Vaccaro makes a discovery about that winning shot while also watching a commercial that Arthur Ashe did for Head tennis rackets as he came up with an idea that he knows is a major risk since he knows Jordan has no interest in Nike. After a dinner with George Raveling who coached Jordan for the 1984 Olympics, Vaccaro makes the decision to visit the Jordans at their home in Wilmington, North Carolina against the advice of Knight, Strasser, and Jordan’s agent David Falk who doesn’t like Vaccaro. Yet, Vaccaro’s meeting with Deloris Jordan about what he wants to do for her son has her intrigued as well as influence her about her upcoming meetings with Converse and Adidas. Vaccaro’s determination would win over Strasser as well as another VP in Howard White (Chris Tucker) and shoe designer Peter Moore (Matthew Maher) as they realize what they have to do to stand out against their competitors despite a rule by the NBA about shoes. Even as Nike knows they have a lot against them as well as trying to convince Jordan to sign with Nike where they would make a move that would prove to be groundbreaking.

Affleck’s direction is definitely stylish as it is shot in areas around Los Angeles but also places in Oregon including its headquarters at Beaverton, Oregon to create a world set during a fruitful period in time as basketball was about to reach newfound popularity in the NBA due to the rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. While there are some wide shots to establish some of the locations including the look of the basketball division floor at the Nike headquarters. Affleck maintains an intimacy into the direction with its usage of close-ups and medium shots as well as some unique tracking shots with the usage of the Steadicam to get a look at the entire basketball division floor as it would show people at work as it feels more like a place where everyone is enjoying themselves despite the fact that they might lose their jobs. Affleck also plays up to a certain look and feel of the times that is the 1980s as it does evoke some nostalgia but it also plays into a world that is changing with American basketball becoming big business as Nike struggles to keep up with their competitors.

A key aspect in Affleck’s direction that is very notable relates to Michael Jordan (Damian Young) as his face is never shown throughout the film while he rarely speaks as Affleck focuses more on the people at Nike as well as Jordan’s parents as they play a major role in his ascent. The conversation between Vaccaro and Deloris Jordan at the latter’s backyard is a key conversation where Vaccaro reveals certain small details about her upcoming meetings with the people at Converse and Adidas as the meetings would reveal what Deloris sees in those small details but also in questions she needed to ask. The meeting between the Jordans and Nike is a key moment that begins the film’s third act as it relates to what Nike wants for Jordan where Vaccaro talks to Michael about his future and what he will face as it raises a lot into the decisions they would make. A decision that Deloris Jordan would make that isn’t just game-changing but also would give Vaccaro a wider view on the future of sports. Overall, Affleck crafts a riveting and evocative film about a Nike talent scout who takes a big risk in nabbing a future icon to be the face of a new shoe line made exclusively for him.

Cinematographer Robert Richardson does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its low-key yet colorful look to play into the look of the 1980s with its emphasis on low-level lighting as well as maintaining some grainy colors for some of the daytime exteriors as it is a highlight of the film. Editor William Goldenberg does excellent work with the editing as it has some stylish montage-style cutting but also some straightforward cutting to play into the drama and some of the comedic moments in the film. Production designer Francois Audouy, along with supervising art director A. Todd Holland plus set decorators David Smith and Henry Somarriba, does amazing work with the look of the Nike building interiors including Knight’s office as well as the exterior of the Jordan family home. Costume designer Charlese Antoinette Jones does fantastic work as it plays into the style of the 80s clothing including some of the Nike tracksuits that Knight wears as cheesy as it looks.

Hair stylist Jessica Allen and makeup artist Kerrin Jackson does nice work with the look of the characters with Knight being the most notable with his hairdo as well as the look of Deloris Jordan. Special effects supervisor Mark R. Byers and visual effects supervisor Hansjeet Duggal do terrific work with the visual effects as it plays into some of the TV footage as well as some set-dressing for some of the exterior shots. Sound editor Susan Dawes, plus sound designers Ai-Ling Lee and Tobias Poppe, does superb work with the sound as it play into the atmosphere of the offices and phone calls as well as the sounds of cars and such to play into the atmosphere of the 1980s.

Music supervisor Andrea von Forester does incredible work with the film’s soundtrack in cultivating a slew of music from late 1970s/early 1980s that include music from Dire Straits, Bruce Springsteen, Run-DMC, Violent Femmes, Mike + the Mechanics, Dan Hartman, the Alan Parsons Project, the Clash, Cyndi Lauper, Harold Faltemeyer, His Name is Alive, Tangerine Dream with additional score music by Paul Haslinger from the group, Squeeze, Rufus with Chaka Khan, Night Ranger, ZZ Top, REO Speedwagon, Big Country, George Clinton, Grandmaster Flash with Melle Mel and the Furious 5, the Dazz Band, Miami Nights 1984, Chris Boardman, Zapp, Pino Donaggio, Thomas Newman, Alexandre Desplat, Andy Partridge and Harold Budd, Mark Isham, and Be Chi. It is a soundtrack that is filled with a lot of the music from that time and it is such a fun soundtrack to listen to.

The casting by Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu does wonderful work with the film’s ensemble cast as it feature some notable small roles from Jessica Green as Knight’s secretary Katrina Sainz, Asante Deshon as a 711 clerk that Vaccaro chats with often about basketball, Jay Mohr as the American Adidas executive John Fisher, Gustav Skarsgard and Barbara Sukowa as the Adidas sibling executives in Kathe and Horst Dassler, Julius Tennon as James R. Jordan Sr. and Damian Young as Michael Jordan. Matthew Maher is terrific as shoe designer Peter Moore as an eccentric man who is going through a mid-life crisis as he also figures out the kind of shoe that would be marketable but also be something beautiful. Marlon Wayans is fantastic as George Raveling as Jordan’s coach during the Olympics who converses with Vaccaro about Jordan but also reveals to have owned something historical as he gives Vaccaro some words of wisdom in approaching the Jordans.

Chris Messina is excellent as Jordan’s agent David Falk who came up with the name Air Jordan as someone who is quite volatile towards Vaccaro while trying to do everything in the best interest of the Jordans. Chris Tucker is brilliant as Howard White as a Nike executive who is reluctant to get Jordan due to the fact that Jordan doesn’t like Nike’s products as well as understanding the culture though he is won over by Vaccaro’s determination. Jason Bateman is amazing as marketing VP Rob Strasser as a man who is often baffled and frustrated by Vaccaro yet is won over as he realizes there’s a chance that this move to get Jordan could save his job and hopefully more time with his daughter. Ben Affleck is incredible as Nike CEO Phil Knight as a man that is trying to keep his company away from a board of directors while is also trying to run Nike in the hope that he doesn’t shut down their basketball division as Affleck brings a lot of humor to his character but also some grounded aspects that makes him someone who does care about Nike and its employees.

Viola Davis is phenomenal as Deloris Jordan as Michael Jordan’s mother who is surprised by Vaccaro’s visit as she is aware about her son being a hot prospect as she also understands what Converse and Adidas are offering yet she realizes that Nike is offering something more that she wants to ensure her son’s financial future. Finally, there’s Matt Damon in a tremendous leading performance as Sonny Vaccaro as this talent scout who is trying to find a new spokesman for Nike’s basketball shoes as he makes a discovery in Michael Jordan where he is aware of the risk he is taking but is also someone that is direct in his pursuit where Damon brings the everyman quality to his character from his physical appearance as well as the sense of humility he brings as it’s one of his finest performances to date.

Air is a spectacular film from Ben Affleck that features a great ensemble cast led by Affleck, Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, and Marlon Wayans. Along with its stylish yet nostalgic look, its study of a man taking a risk to capture an once-in-a-lifetime megastar, and a killer music soundtrack. It’s a film that isn’t just this fascinating sports film of sorts but also a film that shows the origin of one of the greatest shoe lines ever created. In the end, Air is a tremendous film from Ben Affleck.

Ben Affleck Films: (Gone Baby Gone) – The Town (2010 film) - Argo - (Live By Night)

© thevoid99 2023


Brittani Burnham said...

I really liked this. I should've went to it in theaters. I was under the impression it was coming to Prime right away so I waited, then after seeing how good it was, I wish I'd thrown some theater money at it.

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-I really enjoyed this a lot. It was better than I thought it would be but also funnier and I loved the pacing of it. The soundtrack, those were my jams back in the day. I think this is Ben Affleck's best film as a director so far. I too I had seen this in theaters instead of Beau is Afraid or Quantumania.

ruth said...

This is a really good and enjoyable film, it just might end up on my top 10 list of the year!

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-Right now (even though I haven't seen a lot of new films), it's currently in my top 5.