Air

No basketball player flew higher than Michael Jordan, but is Air a slam dunk from the foul line, or is it Lebron fake-crying on the court?
76/10012212
Starring
Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
Director
Ben Affleck
Rating
R
Genre
Drama
Release date
April 5, 2023
Overall Score
Rating Overview
Plot/Story
60%
Visuals/Cinematography
72%
Performance
71%
Direction
79%
Non-Wokeness
100%
Rating Summary

The story about how the video game Tetris made its way out of Soviet Russia and into more hands than any other video game in the history of the world had everything from car chases to undercover KGB agents. Air has a pudgy Matt Damon wearing too much eyeshadow and an ironically shoeless Ben Affleck spouting inane yoga-babble.  So how does it work?

Air

How do you make a compelling movie about a simple business transaction between the mother of the greatest basketball player of all time and a piece of crap woke-as-$!t company that is rumored to have profited billions of dollars on the backs of child labor? Apparently, you assemble great talent for both sides of the camera.

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Written by Alex Convery, a 30-something fella with no other writing credits, or any other kind of movie credits to his name, Air is a tightly woven story with great timing, a wonderful soundtrack, and a bit too much nostalgia-porn.

Matt Damon stars as the real-life marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro who had the hunch that led to Nike landing the GOAT and making the watershed sponsorship deal that would change the world of sports branding forever. Damon gives his usual charismatic and invested performance, but the character doesn’t have much of a personal journey to make. So, while you’re rooting for him, he comes out as the same guy on the other end just with a more secure position in the company (he’d actually be fired a decade later and start working for Adidas).

That’s fine and all. It’s not necessary for every character in a film to have a compelling backstory and deep personal trauma to overcome, but he’s the only character that gets fleshed out in the entire movie. Sure, there’s a bit tagged on 2/3 of the way in about how Sonny was gambling with the lives of the department and we’re supposed to feel empathy, especially for Jason Bateman’s character. Unfortunately, the movie had already done a good enough job over the last hour of making us believe that the department wasn’t going to last for much longer anyway and that the rest of the billion-dollar company would be just fine selling running shoes, that this third-act “conflict” mostly falls flat.

So, what makes Air worth watching? Because it is Worth it…if only just. It’s a combination of things.

As I said, there’s not a bad performance given, even if most aren’t noteworthy. The exception is Viola Davis, who plays Michael’s mother Delores. She manages to subtly captivate every moment that she’s on screen, which is not very often, and she’s incredibly natural and convincing in her character’s understated self-assuredness and no-nonsense determination. Viola is an absolute chameleon who is unrecognizable from the role she’s most known for, Amanda Waller in the now-defunct and soon-to-be rebooted DCEU.

Not to be forgotten, Chris Tucker, the loud-mouth wise-cracking funnyman from a zillion 90s movies makes a triumphant return as Howard White, Nike’s current VP of Marketing for the Air Jordan brand. It’s a triumphant return because Tucker manages to not only not be obnoxiously over the top but to show that he might actually be able to handle meaningful subtlety. Thanks to Air, we might just be seeing more of the serious side of Tucker.

Then there’s the real star of the show, and that’s Ben Affleck…not in his role as Nike co-founder Phil Knight. That role felt tacked on and seemed gimmicky for the sake of having Allfeck and Damon act opposite together again for the first time since 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. No, the star was Affleck behind the camera.

His pacing is perfect and his visual storytelling kept the action moving and the audience engaged throughout. However, the opening credits did feel like the 80s threw up all over me, and Sonny’s prologue was one scene too long and far too heavy-handed. That notwithstanding, the other 90% of the film is crisp with Affleck’s signature style.

With good performances, likable characters, great music, punchy and tight dialogue, as well as excellent direction, Air is a win and worth the watch…after it’s been released on Amazon Prime. Why after? It’s not a big-screen kind of movie and you already know how it ends. Spend your money on something that pops off the screen like The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

WOKE ELEMENTS

None. Yes, Nike as a company is a total woketastophe, and, if I were critiquing them this movie would be 100% woke. However, I’m not critiquing the company.

Also, as far as I can tell, should you buy a ticket to watch Air, or rent it once it’s streaming, you won’t be putting any money into the Nike coffers. Just don’t buy any Nike-branded stuff afterward, and you should be fine.

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James Carrick

James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.

One comment

  • Chris

    June 1, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    If you are looking for a feel good movie with a retro vibe then this will be time well spent.
    It will also leave you with a feeling of how momentous this deal was and how different the corporations and peoples involved futures would have been if it had of fell through (spoiler, it doesn’t).

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