FoCC Review: Air – Just See It

By Jason Delgado 

On the surface, a movie about Nike trying to sign Michael Jordan to a shoe contract does not sound all that enticing. However, Director/Actor Ben Affleck, who is no stranger when it comes to the term ‘excellence’ in filmmaking, has created pure cinematic storytelling gold with Air.  The film is just the kind of crowd-pleaser that we’ve all been waiting for: it’s funny, inspirational, nostalgic and even though it takes place in 1984, feels quite timely. 

The movie shows us that in ‘84, the basketball shoe division of Nike had only a seventeen percent share of the market (well behind Converse and Adidas) and was in major trouble. Enter dad-bod, polo-shirt-wearing Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, a Nike executive who is scraping by in life and his career (he loves his Vegas gambling trips, and when there’s no one at the register of the Nike cafeteria, so he can take whatever he wants), but he has a passion for the game and an eye for talent. Eccentric Nike co-founder Phil Knight (who enjoys Zen Buddhism, wearing purple tracksuits and walking around barefoot), played by Ben Affleck, tells Sonny that spending is being cut and they had better come up with a home run, or else the basketball division will be scrapped altogether. 

Along with director of marketing Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), Sonny and a team try to decide who to sign to shoe contracts from the recent NBA Draft. The problem is that the top picks are already scooped up by other companies, including Michael Jordan. Sonny is less than thrilled at the idea of signing Mel Turpin to a shoe deal, so he digs deep and pours over VHS tapes of all the prospects. That’s when he notices traits that tip off how truly special MJ would become, before everyone else knew, and thus begins his journey to stop at nothing to get Jordan.

We all know how the story ends, but I was on the edge of my seat the entire time due to the compelling way in which it was told: with an all-star cast with great chemistry (of course between old pals Damon and Affleck, but with the rest as well), excellent writing in a script by Alex Convery, heavy doses of 80’s pop culture nostalgia (Ghostbusters and early handheld video games!), and a rocking soundtrack by icons of the era such as Cyndi Lauper, Night Ranger, and Big Country. 

It’s so good to see Chris Tucker back on screen. After a seven-year hiatus, he brings back the same Rush Hour-like fast-talking, affable, wide-eyed and hilarious energy to his portrayal of Howard White, a former player turned Nike executive. Chris Messina is also quite funny as Jordan’s agent David Falk, a foul-mouthed antagonist to Sonny who delivers laugh out loud tirades. Matthew Maher is another standout as a strange, awkward shoe designer guru who changed sports fashion forever as the late Peter Moore.

Viola Davis is a national acting treasure, and her work here as Michael’s mother Deloris is extraordinary, quite possibly even Oscar-worthy. She’s the backbone of the Jordan family, and it’s easy to see where Michael got his unbeatable determination temporarily hidden by Southern charm from. She provides a cheer worthy moment because of the strength of conviction in her son and what is fair and just, and the way that Damon and Davis play off of each other in the scene is a thing of beauty. 

Matt Damon is at his best in Air as well, providing highlights such as an incredible speech about legacy. He’s such a relatable everyman, but his MJ-like passion and dedication shine through at the same time. Likewise for Jason Bateman as a character who just wants to keep a job that makes his daughter happy because he gets to bring her free shoes. You can feel these guys fighting the struggle of a difficult time, just as the real world is struggling now economically and emotionally still after the pandemic.

Rob Strasser laments how everyday he drives to work belting out the lyrics to Springsteen’s “Born in the USA,” which sounds so uplifting and upbeat, but he finally realizes that the words convey a completely different meaning. Great works of art function on multiple levels at the same time, of which Air does with its depth between the stylish fun. And what song blares at the climax of the film? You guessed it.

I give Air five out of five hot sauce packets. It’s got enough fire to make you believe that you can fly. It’s early in the year, but hopefully Air will be in contention for the next Academy Awards!


P.S. – Stick around for the credits for some footage of true-life inspirational moments featuring the G.O.A.T.

Jason Delgado

Jason is a CSULB film school alum and movie guy for Friends of Comic Con. He loves movies, TV, writing, comics, going to Cons, basketball (Lakers), music (all forms of rock + 90's hip hop), football (Chargers), his dog, and most importantly wife and newborn son. He's written a comedy/sci-fi script, and wants to write more in between raising a son. He doesn't often cosplay, but when he does, it's as Iron Fist. Follow him on Twitter @JasonDelgado78

%d bloggers like this: