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“AIR” explores NBA icon’s quest to landing with Nike

Ben Affleck returns behind the camera and reunites with Matt Damon to deliver the first all-star Oscar contender of 2024.

By Kevin Khachatryan, Staff Writer

Ben Affleck stars and directs with Matt Damon in "Air" a film about the infamous Michael Jordan shoe –– Nike. This is Damon and Affleck's ninth film together. (PHOTO COURTESY OF AMAZON STUDIOS)

The Michael Jordan sneaker biopic “Air” gave audiences an inside look into how the ultimate icon landed in the shoes of Nike and how the brand became the behemoth that it is today.

At its core, “Air” is an underdog story. Viola Davis and Matt Damon lead the film into a slam dunk win. Ben Affleck returns to direct his fifth feature film, coming off “Argo” (2012), which won the Academy Award for best picture. He directed the film in addition to starring as Nike founder Phil Knight. Affleck handles the pacing and story expertly, mostly by keeping the characters engaged in conversation.

Matt Damon reunites with Affleck for their ninth feature film together. Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, a Nike executive who wants to blow the company’s entire marketing budget to sign Michael Jordan. With sales down for the year, Nike has no hope in staying successful in the market, but Vaccaro decides to bet all of Nike’s $250,000 budget on one player –– rookie Jordan.

The film is set in 1984. At this point in history, a nearly bankrupt Nike was in desperate need to sign a face like Jordan to pick their company up and outshine competitors like Addias and Puma.

While no actor plays Jordan in the film, the 21 year old who left college early is seen on tapes while Vaccaro studies his moves and presence, seeking out the face of Nike. Affleck mentioned that the six-time champion is too iconic for someone else to play him. While that logic is far from air tight, with actors playing historical icons from Ghandi to Bob Dylan in recent years, Jordan’s presence is not missed in the film.

With a screenplay penned by Alex Convery, dialogue in the screenplay is never dull. Discussions between each person always feel critical and intriguing to the story.

Along with Damon, the movie’s second MVP is Davis, whose moving performance deepens the story and expands its emotional moments. Davis’ performance shows the true character of Jordan’s mother — the sacrifices she made and how responsible she was for Jordan’s career. Despite the refusal from Nike, she is able to negotiate a deal where Michael gets a global percentage from every Air Jordan shoe sold.

With the film being labeled as a drama, the tone of the film does not shy away from comedic scenes and the script stays consistent when scenes need to be more serious. Affleck does a great job to pump up audiences in a underdog crowd pleaser that stays in celebration and the entire cast leaves fans entertained.

“Air” is a crowd pleaser to fans who love sports biopic stories, with a standout ensemble cast that finds balance between the drama and comedy represented in the film. Watching how Nike grew to be the phenomenon brand and the story of legend Michael Jordan changing the culture of sports was inspirational.

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