Air (2023): Dribbles of Nostalgia Meets Cheer-Worthy Excitement

“Air” is directed by Ben Affleck (Live by Night, The Town), who also appears as one of the films stars. Alongside him in this studded cast are names including Matt Damon (The Last Duel, The Martian), Jason Bateman (Game Night, Horrible Bosses), Marlon Wayans (Scary Movie, The Wayans Bros.) Chris Messina (Devil, Argo), Chris Tucker (Rush Hour, The Fifth Element), and Viola Davis (Suicide Squad, Fences). This film is about Sonny Vaccaro’s mission to put Nike on the map and track down rookie Michael Jordan to make the greatest shoe of all time.

I am not a sports nut. Granted, I live near Boston, so I have admittedly had some history of going to a Sox game or searching up certain highlights on YouTube or reluctantly watching the Super Bowl because my grandma’s favorite team, the New England Patriots are in it. While I am not a sports person, I am a movie person. And I have come to learn some sports are like movies. There are so many compelling tales to be told whether they are historic rivalries like Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird, the legacy of Tiger Woods, or the miracle on ice during the 1980 Olympics. But those stories are about the players, which we have seen on screen before. What has not been shown on screen as often are the success stories of those who are supplementing sports and their respective athletes. Despite having an athlete like Michael Jordan in the movie, “Air” is not about an individual athlete or group of athletes accomplishing something bigger than themselves. Instead, it is about a company who is trying to reinvent the wheel. Only with a shoe.

For those of you who know your film history, you would know Michael Jordan himself has appeared in movies before. He was the star of the 1990s time capsule, “Space Jam,” which I unfortunately had the displeasure of watching. The sequel starring LeBron James is not much better. If you want any filmmaking advice, here is my suggestion. If you are going to make a movie featuring Michael Jordan, whether he is in it, or somebody plays him, leave Bugs Bunny out of it. And that is one reason why “Air” is a really good movie. As for other reasons why this is a really good movie, the screenplay may be the best I have witnessed so far this year. Not only is it based on a compelling true story, not only does it have great dialogue, but it is funny, dramatic, and on top of that, the characters are well-crafted and executed with care. Alex Convery should be proud of himself. This is not only a great screenplay, but this has brought him his first credits. Ever. According to IMDb, this is his first writing credit, in addition to being his first producing credit. As far as I am concerned, he started his career off with a bang.

Sonny Vaccaro is an admirable protagonist. He may look like an everyday dude, but he has a drive to him that I cannot help but respect. He has a goal in mind, he knows it is difficult to accomplish, but he will do just about anything to achieve it, even if others call him crazy. There have been many protagonists throughout history who aspire to conquer larger than life obstacles. All this guy wants in life is to sell people a shoe that can do it all. And this movie does a great job at making that obstacle feel bigger than it should be. Damon’s performance is a perfect balance between nuanced and heightened. It hits the Goldilocks Zone. Damon is perfectly cast as Vaccaro and I almost cannot imagine anyone else playing this character.

Although if I had to note another performance that perhaps stands out more, it would be Viola Davis’s efforts as Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s mom. There is a certain flair to her performance that only she can provide. Davis is already an incredible actress by herself, but having a character as compelling as this one makes for a winning combo. While Damon is a fantastic lead, Davis, almost unfairly, steals every scene she is in.

Speaking of the Jordan family, this movie made an interesting choice regarding the Michael Jordan character. A Michael Jordan character does appear in the movie, but Jordan does not play himself. Michael Jordan is played by Damian Delano Young, which given his limited resume, this movie should end up being his big break. Throughout the select moments and scenes where Jordan can be seen in frame, we never see his face. His dialogue is also kept to a minimum. Granted, this is not Michael Jordan’s story per se. He is a supporting character, he is a crucial part of the story, but at the end of the day, it is Sonny Vaccaro’s story. It reminds me of Steven Spielberg’s “The Post,” where Richard Nixon, a crucial fixture of the film’s idea and setting, only makes an appearance in one scene with bare visibility. Michael Jordan is used sparingly and mostly towards the end of the movie. Do I think it is a tad odd we never see Jordan’s face? Maybe a little. I would like to see a reality where someone plays the character and shows his face, but I think the version we got allowed the character to feel special despite not doing much at all.

There is something about “Air” that left me… Well, up in the air. This movie is set in the 1980s and it is shoehorned with reference after reference after reference. On a positive note, I felt that when it comes to encapsulating the time period, the movie did an excellent job at capturing that magic. I think if you grew up during the 1980s, you might be taken back. If you admire culture based in the 1980s, you might be in for a treat. That said, I think the constant references and deep cuts become distracting after awhile. I only need to be reminded that we are in a certain time period so many times. Although if I had to note one deep cut that blew my mind once it came up, it is the use of Tangerine Dream’s score from “Risky Business.”

There are movies that I know are based on true stories, but I do not know all the ins and outs of what happens, therefore making the narrative more satisfying. “Air” is a movie containing events I could sometimes see coming, but they nevertheless have a gigantic oomph when they happen. However, giving my lack of knowledge on sports and shoes, it made the movie’s final moments all the more satisfying. When I left “Air,” I had a smile on my face. I am glad a story like this was told. It made me happy.

If I have any other comments to make on the film, it would be that the looks of the film are pristine. And I am not necessarily talking about the camerawork or cinematography, although that is not bad either. I am referring to the costumes, the makeup, and outlooks of all the characters. The costumes are not as intricate as say a period piece set centuries ago, but going back to what I said about this film’s nostalgia factor, these costumes feel like they belong in a time like the 1980s. “Air” is well written, well paced, and maybe I will watch it again sometime.

In the end, how could I not enjoy “Air?” In today’s society where we still have COVID-19, we still have division, we still have chaos, I always happen to be looking for stories that make me feel good, and “Air” is one of those stories. I think this movie is going to do very well with audiences over time. I do not know how much of a presence it will have at the next awards season given how early it has come out. But if Amazon Studios gives “Air” a big enough push, it can do some magic. With its already successful theatrical run, I hope it also does well when it drops on Prime Video. “Air” is not my favorite film I have seen so far this year, but it is one that I am going to think about on a consistent basis. Also, between “The Way Back” and now “Air,” Ben Affleck is the new king of basketball movies. I am going to give “Air” a very high 7/10.

“Air” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to have reviews for “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” and “Sisu,” both movies just recently came out, and I saw both of them. I will have my thoughts sometime soon. Also, I have my ticket to go see “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” this week, so you can also expect a review for that movie coming soon as well. Stay tuned! If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Air?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite athlete? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!


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