Who knew a movie about Air Jordans could be so riveting?
Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, Air tells the story of the pitch, creation, and selling of the famous Air Jordan shoes. I have seen many share a sentiment of confusion, in regards to the film. “What are we doing here? Why are we making movies about a shoe? Why is the first movie about Michael Jordan not actually about him?” And while I understand those feelings, to a degree, I had no such worries when I saw the first trailer.
An Instant Classic Sports-Adjacent Film
Two of my favorite sports films are Moneyball and Jerry Maguire. While those movies feature extended game scenes, they also feature movie stars doing what movie stars do. Except they are doing it behind-the-scenes of our country’s various sports. So when you tell me that Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Viola Davis are going to star in a film that sounds eerily similar to these other sports-adjacent movies, I am bound to take notice.
To my delight, Air is a rousing success! A feel-good story that feels old-fashioned in its storytelling. Not in a been there, done that sort of way, but in a comforting, familiar way. We know where it’s going to go as soon as the movie starts. It’s an underdog story set in the high-stakes world of footwear marketing. Can’t get much more glamorous than that!
Rising Tension Where There is None
But despite its less-than-exciting backdrop, Air finds its groove quickly and never loses momentum. We know that Damon’s Sonny Vaccaro closes the deal and that Air Jordans will become the most recognizable shoe line ever created. And yet, we wonder. Throughout the movie, scene after scene, it’s a question of how will this happen? How will he pull it off? Why is he risking the livelihood of everyone in his department, if he can’t sign Jordan? As director, Affleck finds a way to find great tension where there should not be any at all. We know how this story ends but that does not make us care any less.
An All-Star Cast
Even more than its excellent directing, the film’s true MVP is its casting team of Lindsay Graham (not that one) and Mary Vernieu. Each character – big and small – is so expertly cast for their role and play them perfectly. In a movie featuring Damon, Affleck, and Davis, as well as the always welcome Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, and Chris Tucker back onscreen, it’s the whole cast that sells it. And despite those huge names, it is exciting to come out singing the praises of people like Chris Messina, Julius Tennon, and Matthew Maher. All three men play supporting roles but their presence looms large over their scenes.
Throughout its runtime, Air stays light on its toes but heavy in its craft. The film is much better made than I anticipated going in. It weaves between its serious moments and its comedic moments expertly. I had a great time from the moment it began. Air is pretty easily the best film I have seen so far this year and I cannot wait to watch it again.