Updated: Apr 12
“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.” - Charles Kettering
Ben Affleck the actor is a hit or miss kind of talent. In the midst of his earlier days with projects like Daredevil and, I’ll try not to gag when I say this, Gigli, it seemed his days as an A-lister were numbered at best. But then he achieved something that most in his line of work rarely get to experience, a second chance. Taking matters into his own hands, Ben stepped behind the lens for his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, a crime drama based on a novel written by Dennis Lehane. What made it perfect for Affleck is the setting of Boston, his hometown. Knowing the dialect and propensity for citizens that seem to thrive on the concept of tough love, it was the best place for him to start what would turn into a promising directing career.
From there he only solidified his skill as a filmmaker as he co-wrote and directed the phenomenal heist thriller, The Town. Acting as a sort of combination condemnation and love letter to the place he grew up, Affleck demonstrated his ability to make the setting his characters live in truly come to life. Charlestown, Ma. feels both thriving and dangerous somehow and with the cast he pieced together he made a modern classic proving that as a filmmaker at least, he was here to stay. A few years later of course he would direct Best Picture winner, Argo. Any doubts of his prowess behind the lens were silenced at that moment. Now, after a bit of a hiatus due to the mess that hopefully was but no longer is DC, Affleck is back in the director’s chair for another biopic, AIR.
Air is in so many ways about the eventual rise of Michael Jordan but more accurately it’s about those around him that saw his potential not just as an athlete but as a symbol and an icon. As much as he is the focus of the characters in this story, it’s just as much the story of Nike and its meteoric rise to become one of the most profitable footwear corporations in history.
In the modern day, Nike is king. In the mid 80’s it was third tier and losing ground to Converse and Adidas. It may sound hard to believe but the basketball division at Nike was once on the chopping block facing permanent exile. Of course as we well know, an idea came about that would change everything. To make the athlete himself the attraction to which the shoe would be molded around as opposed to just another top athlete representing the brand. This time, the brand is the man himself and would change the course of history forever as the name Jordan would nearly overshadow the very corporation that designs and sells his namesake the world over. Air is about the people behind the scenes that saw Jordan not as a potential success story in the NBA but rather a guaranteed one. If this story is to be believed they saw him as potentially reaching the stratosphere as the greatest basketball player that ever lived. Talk about having a crystal ball.
Leading a stellar cast is longtime friend of Affleck, Matt Damon who plays the real life basketball guru, Sonny Vaccaro. Vaccaro, stuck between a rock and a hard place, was the first to truly see what Jordan was capable of achieving outside of his own mother, Deloris Jordan, brilliantly portrayed by Viola Davis. Affleck takes on double duty as director and Nike CEO, Phil Knight. He is both co-creator of Vaccaro’s success but also the voice of reason between Vaccaro’s lofty dreams and the skeptical board who Knight must justify their spending to. Alongside Vacarro was Rob Strasser played by Jason Bateman who in so many ways acted as a reality anchor to Vaccaro’s flights of fancy. Together they balanced one another out creating the perfect pitch to bring to a reluctant young man on the verge of greatness.
Air isn’t a crime drama like his previous projects. Even Argo had elements of violence and danger as his characters fled for safer lands outside of Iran. Air is purely an office drama with the promise of something bigger. We all know the final product, Air shows how the sausage is made. Believe it or not, Jordan was once considered a risk. Despite the majority of the story taking place in the Nike offices located in rural Beaverton, Oregon, Air is no less engaging and thrilling as any one of his heightened crime dramas. The focus of the drama is simply different but just as fascinating. The cast is absolutely at the top of their respective games with special note going to Matt Damon and Viola Davis. In this story they are the definition of powerhouse performers.
With an assured, veteran hand at the helm, Air conducts a story of greatness by showing the early roots of both a corporation and a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Air is in certain aspects familiar as a biopic but with its tenacious dialogue and outstanding cast it rises above most making it something genuinely special. Now if they made a film about the man himself, this would be a fantastic companion piece to his life story.
I want to make a special note of appreciation to the final moments of the film when on screen in bold white lettering, and without mincing words, they declare Michael Jordan as the greatest basketball player ever. Not one of the best, but thee best to ever do it. It makes me smile to think of the annoyed faces of Lebron James fanboys as they read the truth. Hehehe…
Rated R For: language throughout
Runtime: 112 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman
Directed By: Ben Affleck
Out of 10
Story: 9/ Acting: 10/ Directing: 9/ Visuals: 9
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below: