I love movies that tell real stories about real people. The Social Network, The Blind Side, Into The Wild, Hidden Figures, Moneyball, Wild, etc. are favorites because they are well-written, well-acted, and show that truth really can be stranger and more fascinating than fiction. So, when I read about Air, the story of Nike’s acquisition of Michael Jordan as their basketball shoe spokesman, I was definitely interested. And of course it helped that the movie stars Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, and Viola Davis.
In 2018, I read and reviewed Shoe Dog https://lauralieff.com/shoe-dog/ which was excellent but very different than Air. While the book is Phil Knight’s memoir that details how he created Nike, Air is a smaller, nuanced story about a specific vision regarding a specific player before he became the most well-known athlete in the world.
Taking place in 1984, Air focuses on Damon who plays Sonny Vacarro – Nike’s basketball talent scout who needs to find a new spokesperson for the struggling division of a successful company. Affleck plays Knight well and cleverly plays up his ridiculous 80s outfits, drives that purple Porsche without any irony, and delivers the Zen attitude I read about in Shoe Dog. Knight is a successful CEO but still has a board of directors to answer to and is therefore the yin to Vacarro’s yang – a guy who loves to gamble but also does his research.
When Vacarro becomes unequivocally convinced that Jordan is Nike’s guy – so much so that he’s willing to bet the entire shoe budget on one athlete which had never been done before – his one-track mind makes him impossible to stop. Davis (fabulous as always) plays Jordan’s mother who is kind and smart but also no bullshit – she calls ALL the shots.
It’s interesting that the athlete in question is barely seen in the movie but then again this is not a story about Jordan as a superstar athlete. It’s about the business side of how Nike made legendary moves that changed the landscape of how sports deals would be conducted going forward.
Davis and Damon are definitely the stars – as well as Bateman in a supporting but important role – as they talk to each other firmly, passionately, and politely all at once. They are so fun to watch that I want them to do another movie together. Another pair I’ve been a fan of since the beginning is Damon/Affleck. I loved Good Will Hunting and it’s clear that their friendship and chemistry have remained solid for the 26 years they have been in show business together.
Clearly the acting was outstanding and, as far as the plot goes, any movie that keeps me on the edge of my seat even though I already know the outcome is the type of film I want to see. You do not have to be a basketball fan to enjoy Air, but you might become one after you see it.