Air Review – a return to filmmaking form for Affleck

By Marc Miller
Published: April 9, 2023 (Last updated: March 13, 2024)
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air-review
3.5

Summary

Air is Affleck’s return to form and is worth watching for the performances, including Damon and the scene-stealing Viola Davis.

Directed by Ben Affleck, we review the 2023 film Air, which does not contain spoilers.

There are a host of biographical dramas hitting the market this year. From the acquisition of Tetris, the birth of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, to the rise and fall of the Blackberry, Hollywood is looking to make a movie now about the birth of ingenuity.

A subject that generally would be a subplot on the way to someone’s greatness. That’s what you have in Ben Affleck’s return to form in Air. The film doesn’t tackle the birth of Phil Knight’s Nike or even the iconic branding of the swoosh symbol. Nor does the Argo director even bother to intimately view the struggle of Michael Jordan’s rise to the greatest athlete of all.

The award-winning filmmaker takes an entertaining view of the birth of commerce that changed the shoe business forever.

Air (2023) Review and Plot Summary

Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, a sports marketing executive who famously started all-star basketball games for high school players nationwide.

Sonny was hired by Phil Knight (portrayed by Affleck) to revamp his basketball shoe division, which has only gotten smaller since Vaccaro’s arrival.

His friend, Howard White (Chris Tucker), put his reputation on the line to hire him. The head of marketing who supervises him, Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), is frustrated with his lack of leadership.

Part of this is because of what Sonny knows and the others don’t. You cannot put a bandaid on this problem by signing three middling first-round picks to sell their brand. If they don’t take their shot, the basketball division is all but dead and will be circling the drain.

What’s his big idea? To sign the third pick of the NBA draft at a time when only big men were an advertiser’s dream and guards lacked popularity. That man was Michael Jordan, and Sonny saw greatness in him and immortality.

Affleck and first-time screenwriter Alex Convery find the human element in the story of the iconic basketball shoe. One is by showing flaws. For example, he’s presenting Damon’s character in a light that can be abrasive.

Damon plays Vaccaro as your classic dreamer who rubs his coworkers incorrectly. Sonny is blunt and arrogant, but when it counts, the emotions he lays on his sleeve can be empathetic and poignant.

Affleck’s Knight considers himself an almost arahant-like figure, but he is aloof sometimes and, for all intents and purposes, seems to be playing the pious Buddhist like he’s faking it to make it. Case in point, when Sonny interrupts a presentation, he drops an f-bomb when the god-fearing Jordans are right behind him.

Convery’s script does an above-average job of showing the uphill battle that Vaccaro and company were up against. That builds some suspense, but not enough since this is undercut by knowing the story behind it.

In fact, when Damon’s character delivers an emotionally resonant speech, the scene is not as effective as it could be. Affleck trades any filmmaking tricks for a rawer, off-the-cuff moment.

This reflects when Marlon Wayans’ George Raveling tells how Martin Luther King’s famous speech was spontaneous.

Is the 2023 movie Air good or bad?

Air is a good film that is elevated by the work of Davis, who has the film’s best scenes with Damon. (Along with Matthew Maher’s Peter Moore, the genius behind the shoe branding).

Convery and Affleck have Davis play Jordan’s mother, who understands her family’s shared history, and this is their chance to create genuine change for generations. Unsurprisingly, Davis gives an award-worthy turn that gives the story its judicious center.

Is the 2023 movie Air worth watching?

Air is worth watching and is Affleck’s return to form. His film is funny and poignant, with two very good performances, including Damon and the scene-stealing Viola Davis.

What did you think of the 2023 movie Air? Comment below.

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