Ben Affleck returns to the director’s chair and reunites with Matt Damon on screen for Air. When I first heard about Air, the premise didn’t give me the confidence of something truly special.
For those that are unaware, Airis based on the story of Nike trying to sign the basketball legend Michael Jordan to a shoe deal. A man who is widely regarded as the greatest basketball player of all time, at the time of this story, Michael Jordan was only an NBA rookie. I hear you ask, “How interesting can a movie about a shoe be?” — the same question I asked myself.
Then I saw the movie, I found a superb piece of filmmaking full of humanity and heart in every scene. Argo was fantastic, and I see much of that same style here, Airthough is another level for Affleck as a director. Every choice felt perfect from the very first seconds with an 80s-filled montage to the Matt Damon monologue later. I was glued to every scene, so much so that the almost two-hour runtime flew by! It felt as though Affleck knew exactly what he wanted in every shot before filming began. One particular scene between Matt Damon and Viola Davis blew me away because of the use of close-up shots. This added to and demonstrated the importance of the scene, something that would have been a bit more inconspicuous if shot differently. This isn’t the only time Affleck makes really effective use of close-ups in the movie; it creates a sense of importance and allows more to be said without words.
Of course, every movie is only as strong as its script, the backbone of filmmaking, great directors and actors can only do so much with a bad script. I’m pleased to say that writer Alex Convery has done an exceptional job, each word has a purpose without zero padding. Nothing feels wasted or misplaced, everything has a meaning.
This combination of a strong script and a director who has a clear tone and vision for the movie leaves only one thing… a stellar cast! Oh boy, Airhas a stellar cast. Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Chris Tucker, Jason Bateman, and more.
Let’s start with Damon, who plays Sonny Vaccaro the man who identified the rookie Michael Jordan for Nike and then pursues him for a deal. Damon puts in one of his career-best performances here, each scene is delivered with the same weight of importance as the last. The standout scene, perhaps, is a movie-stealing monologue that genuinely gave me chills. Not only did the words connect with me on a personal level but they were delivered with such belief and relatability. It felt like Damon himself believed what he was saying to be the truth, beyond acting. Outside of that, I’ve not seen more engaging phone conversations in a movie since Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Maguire. If you haven’t seen Jerry Maguire (please do), then just think of the funniest, most tense, and most important phone calls you’ve ever had, and you’ll get the idea.
As phenomenal as Damon is, other than the monologue, he is far from stealing the show. In truth, nobody in this film steals the show because everyone is fantastic, Viola Davis stars as Michael’s mother and had me hanging on every word. Affleck himself shines in every scene he has as Phil Knight the co-founder of Nike he was a delight to see and not just for his costumes! Jason Bateman and Chris Tucker do a superb job supporting and have many scenes with Damon. Bateman in particular, treads the line between comedy and drama perfectly here, from funny bathroom scenes to serious talks about what happens if the deal doesn’t work out. His performance may get overlooked due to the other incredible standout performances here, but for me, he more than holds his own in a movie where everyone was near perfect with every spoken word and even when they weren’t speaking.
When I say every person stands out, I mean every person. It didn’t matter if they were in one scene or had only five lines. Each performance was memorable, of course, I expected no less from this ensemble cast, but movies with ensemble casts don’t always deliver.
I don’t have a negative thing to say about this movie, although I think it’s important to note for a film based on the legendary basketball star, Michael Jordan, one of, if not the singular, greatest competitive athletes of all time. The legend himself is more of a backdrop to the story of a shoe that changed things for Nike in many ways and for athletes moving forward. The biggest surprise is that this film didn’t need to focus on Michael to succeed. That is just a testament to the amazing job of everyone involved.
I was blown away but every aspect of Air; it’s a movie that will stay with me for a long time. I wasn’t expecting a movie about a shoe deal to be so inherently human and much less about business than you’d think. Very few movies ever nail each aspect in the way that Airhas. I’d be shocked if we didn’t see this one picking up multiple awards when the time comes. It played the perfect game of filmmaking, if such a thing exists. It’s also the first and only Michael Jordan movie that doesn’t include animated co-stars, though that one isn’t bad to watch, either.
Air Review: An Unexpected Picture-Perfect Slam Dunk
Air is about as close to a perfect movie I think I’ve ever seen, with career best directing from Ben Affleck and stellar performances across the board. Go and see this movie!
Every Actor delivers a Standout performance
Affleck’s best directing yet
A flawless script
Air Review: An Unexpected Picture Perfect Slam Dunk