Ben Affleck in Air | Agents of Fandom

‘AIR’ Review: Ben Affleck & Co. Make a Slam Dunk of a Movie

Energizing direction and an all-star cast make the story of Nike signing Michael Jordan an instant staple in the pantheon of sports movies.

The story of Nike CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) and his high school basketball talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) signing Michael Jordan and creating his iconic shoe seems simple, and it is, but damn if it isn’t entertaining and riveting as hell.

You could say that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon teaming up on a film is akin to Michael Jordan and Nike teaming up on creating the most legendary basketball shoe of all time—something truly special. While Air isn’t game-changing, like the Air Jordan was for the basketball industry, it is something that mixes both form and function perfectly to create a movie that is energetic, emotional, and effective in telling a pivotal sports story.

The finish line isn’t the destination

The movie follows Sonny Vaccaro as he is put under the pressure of growing Nike’s basketball division in 1984, the year Michael Jordan was drafted by the NBA. During Air’s delightful 1 hour and 52 minute runtime, he decides to solely pursue Jordan as the next big athlete to wear Nike shoes.

We travel with him from Nike Headquarters, across the country to meet with the Jordan family, and back again, as he fights tooth and nail to convince them that signing with Nike is the right move. Even though Jordan is set on signing with Adidas, the hottest brand at the time, he still believes he can win him over.

Through a series of emotional moments of perseverance and quick thinking, Sonny is able to convince Phil Knight that Michael Jordan is the right fit for the brand, ultimately signing Jordan to the biggest and most influential shoe deal in the history of sports. But as Affleck says during the film, “the finish line isn’t the destination, the act of doing is the destination;” and although he is referencing running, it holds true to the very core of this film.

Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) sits down with Doris Jordan (Viola Davis) to discuss signing with Nike | Agents of Fandom
Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) sits down with Doris Jordan (Viola Davis) to discuss signing with Nike. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Air is the ultimate dad-energy movie. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, and the surprisingly charming Chris Tucker all radiate the energy of an 80s dad who is trying to be the coolest, most-world changing businessman while in his pink running shorts and exceptionally edgy sunglasses. And to be honest, I love every second of it.

Mix that energy with a murderer’s row of needle drops of some of the most quintessential 80s tracks (the likes of “Sister Christian” and “Blister in the Sun” for example) and B-roll of 80s promotions and ads, and you’ve got the ultimate dad movie in the best possible way.

Ben Affleck demonstrates why some of his best work, on and off-screen, happens behind the camera. He brings a type of nimble-yet-anchored energy to the feel of the film, with certain scenes forcing you to whisper “this guy can direct” out loud in your theater. From some really neat split diopter shots, to entire sequences gliding through the radical offices of Nike, Affleck captures the tone of the story with ease and finesse.

Come for Ben Affleck, Stay for Matt Damon

Peter Moore (Matthew Maher), Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), and Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) look onward at the history-defining Air Jordan shoe | Agents of Fandom
Peter Moore (Matthew Maher), Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), and Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) look onward at the history-defining Air Jordan shoe. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Matt Damon carries this movie across the finish line with his acting and one of the best sports monologues in recent film history—something that will be repeated time and time again, that hearkens home the idea of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Sure, it’s formulaic, but it is incredibly effective, so much so that I found myself tearing up in my movie theater seat, getting chills at some of the metaphors about the mortality of life and the legacy we leave behind. In a crucial role that if played incorrectly greatly hinders the movie, Viola Davis wraps everything together with a sublime performance as Michael Jordan’s mom, Deloris Jordan. She is the physical embodiment of the pressure, pain, and ultimate pleasure that everybody—including the audience—goes through during the film.

My unsung hero of the movie is Matthew Maher, though, who plays the role of Peter Moore, the man who truly designed the Air Jordan and the Air Jordan logo. He brings an unreal amount of premium humor to the film, which, when mixed with both the intentional and unintentional comedy delivered by the rest of the cast and an airtight script, makes this one of the funniest movies of the year thus far.

Air is Dad-approved

Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) smiles as he tries to make a deal to get Michael Jordan to sign with Nike | Agents of Fandom
Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) smiles as he tries to make a deal to get Michael Jordan to sign with Nike. Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

My dad isn’t a movie guy, he just isn’t into them. With that very firm knowledge, I texted him immediately following my viewing of Air, recommending that he go see it. He replied that it is on his “must-see” list for the year, stating he plans to watch it on opening weekend. If that isn’t the power of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon cooking up the perfect dad movie, I don’t know what is. And I plan on seeing it a second and probably a third time, if not just for the dynamite vibe that Ben Affleck’s hairpiece gives off.

'AIR' Review

'AIR' Review
4.5 5 0 1
4.5 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Energetic camera work from Ben Affleck proves why he is a master behind the camera.
  • All-Star cast, an airtight script, and a sub-2 hour runtime make for a super fun watch.
  • An instant hall of fame level sports monologue from Matt Damon.
  • Dad movies are BACK!

The Bad

  • Slight loss of momentum in the third act can hinder the impact of the story.
  • Ben Affleck's glasses are TOO cool.
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