“Air” is the origin story of Michael Jordan’s game-changing Nike endorsement deal. For a movie about shoes, it’s beautifully charismatic and entertaining.
There’s no surprise in this story. We all know that Michael Jordan signed with Nike. The movie, directed by Ben Affleck, stars veteran performers and includes sly, smart, and sentimental writing that will cater to non-sports and sports fans alike.
Nike created a shoe not just for Jordan but for him – a representation of the iconic persona we know and love today.
In 1984, Nike hadn’t cracked the basketball market to the satisfaction of their shareholders. Nike exec and recruiting expert Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) had the vision to make a shoe for Jordan alone.
Recognizing Jordan as a once-in-a-generation talent, Vaccaro knew that it would put Nike on the map if he successfully recruited the North Carolina guard.
Vaccaro’s vision was met with hesitation by director of marketing Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman, whose banter is brilliant for his role), player-turned-executive Howard White (Chris Tucker, who talks so fast you’re obligated to laugh), Jordan’s agent David Falk (Chris Messina, who has a hilarious tirade over the phone with Vaccaro), and finally Jordan’s mother Deloris (Viola Davis, who beautifully portrays a mother’s love and wisdom of knowing what is right for her son).
This star-studded cast, along with the wholesome and witty writing, makes for a lovely film that showcases acting.
The soundtrack to this film is not to be overlooked. Iconic songs from 80s artists like Cyndi Lauper, the Violent Femmes, Chaka Khan, and the Dire Straits will make you feel some nostalgia while watching the story unfold.
One thing I found interesting about the film is you never see Michael Jordan’s face, except when there are clips of newspapers or videos from his career. There is an actor portraying Jordan, but you only ever see his back. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Affleck said Jordan “either has to be a character that you show throughout the movie, or you can’t show him at all.”
I think this was smart because Michael Jordan is such a legend. Affleck goes on to say that they’re not trying to “fake” Jordan, and it would be obvious that it wasn’t him in the movie, whereas the execs from Nike could easily be played by actors.
Overall, the film was entertaining, wholesome, witty, and had a lot of heart. ‘Air’ is a letter of admiration to the Jordan family, if you will. I’d recommend seeing it whether you’re a fan of basketball or not.