Verdict: Despite the boring-sounding subject matter, AIR is a compelling crowd-pleasing film with a top-notch '80s soundtrack

  • Jason Bateman, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck
  • April 5th 2023
  • Ben Affleck

Matt Damon and Jason Bateman play sports marketing executives who try to sign Michael Jordan to a sponsorship deal at Nike.

Considering childhood friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have worked together for more than 20 years, it’s remarkable that AIR is the first time Damon has been directed by Affleck.

Their latest collaboration tells the story of Nike sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro (Damon), who risked his entire reputation and career by urging his direct boss Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) and Nike co-founder Phil Knight (Affleck) to put all of the company’s basketball marketing budget on Michael Jordan.

It was a huge gamble because Jordan was still a rookie back in the ’80s, however, Vaccaro could see his vast potential and wanted him to strike a business deal with Nike.

However, Jordan was also being courted by Converse and Adidas, who were bigger names in basketball shoes at the time. How do Vaccaro and Nike beat the competition? Watch the movie to find out.

This sounds like it might be quite a dry and dull film – after all, it’s a bunch of men (except for Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother) talking in rooms about shoes and sponsorship deals. The subject matter doesn’t scream excitement.

Yet, somehow, AIR is engaging, entertaining, and even a little bit moving at the end.

This is largely down to Alex Convery’s script, which is smart and littered with witty banter.

The writing (which had input from Damon and Affleck but they’re uncredited) keeps the story light and there are some hilarious exchanges, particularly involving Chris Messina’s sports agent David Falk.

The cast also has a huge part to play in making this an enjoyable watch.

Damon steers the ship as the underdog Vaccaro, who clearly needs a win. He is so passionate about Jordan and his potential and he deserves to land the deal.

Then, there are the characters that provide more comic relief, such as Affleck as the wacky dresser Knight, Messina as the feisty, potty-mouthed agent and Chris Tucker as the outspoken sports marketing executive Howard White.

Davis and Julius Tennon bring the heart to the movie as Jordan’s parents Deloris and James. They are doing their best to figure out which company actually cares for their son rather than simply lining their own pockets.

A body double plays Jordan in shots from behind but his face is never shown.

Affleck believed it would have been too tricky to cast an actor in the iconic role but it does feel weird that the sports legend is talked about but isn’t a character.

Despite the boring-sounding subject matter, AIR is a compelling crowd-pleasing film with a top-notch ’80s soundtrack.

In cinemas from Wednesday 5th April.

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