Movie Review: “AIR” Takes Flight

Arts & Entertainment

Anthony Pantalone, Arts and Entertainment Editor

On Monday, Apr. 3, I had the opportunity to attend a VIP advance screening of “AIR”—the newest film from creative duo and best friends Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. The film tells the story of Sonny Vaccaro, a NIKE basketball guru who looks to gamble on signing a sneaker contract with up-and-coming rookie Michael Jordan. The screenplay—from newcomer Alex Convery is fairly straightforward, telling the story of one man’s perseverance through great adversity towards success. Vaccaro and Nike had consistently floundered in the basketball division in the past and stood little-to-no chance of landing Jordan. Only through Sonny’s unconventional and genuine approach does he eventually achieve success in this endeavor. Simply put, AIR is the feel-good movie of the spring—the type of film that could be enjoyed by both the most hardcore basketball fans and casual viewers who know the name “Michael Jordan.” 

via Amazon Studios

A Star-Studded Cast

“AIR” boasts an incredibly talented cast of iconic actors who all deliver great performances. While the film’s screenplay is generally tight and entertaining, this film is strengthened immensely by its casts and their performances. Matt Damon stars as the protagonist of the film, Sonny Vaccaro. Ben Affleck is the eccentric CEO of NIKE Phil Knight and actually flexes skills as a comedic actor in this role. The great two-time Academy Award winner Viola Davis portrays Deloris Jordan—the mother of the basketball legend—with a certain gravitas that would not be possible with any other actress. Jason Bateman and Chris Tucker play Rob Strasser and Howard White, two employees aligned with Vaccaro in pursuit of the Jordan deal. Both actors—who are incredibly well-known for their many prior roles—shine in adding sharp-witted humor and sarcasm to all their scenes. Marlon Wayans makes a brief cameo as George Raveling, the assistant coach for the 1984 US Olympic Men’s Basketball team.

Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro/via Amazon Studios

Damon and Affleck Together Again

The popular duo of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon first became a household name in 1997 with their iconic screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”—a movie in which they both starred—that would earn them the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. “AIR” sees the longtime friends reunite on a project together for the first time in almost two decades. In the twenty-six years since “Good Will Hunting”, Affleck has built up an incredibly successful career both in front and behind the camera. Affleck has been known for directing hit films such as “The Town” and “Argo”—the latter winning the Oscar for Best Picture and Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture-Drama and Best Director in 2012. Damon has also achieved considerable box office and critical success—starring in the Jason Bourne franchise and the Ocean’s Eleven films alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The pair have been friends since they were eight and continue to this day. One of the best strengths of this film was their dynamic, a winning creative combination that highlights all the fun of being able to make movies with your closest friends.

Ben Affleck as Phil Knight/via Amazon Studios

The 80s and Cinematography

Two other strengths of AIR include the film’s cinematography and the setting of the 1980s. The director of photography for this film was Robert Richardson—a legendary cinematographer who has worked on several cinematic classics including “Casino”, “Inglourious Basterds”, “The Aviator”, “Kill Bill”, and “A Few Good Men”. With Richardson behind the camera,what could have been a pretty by-the-numbers sports business movie gets elevated into something much more substantive and entertaining. His great camerawork is especially noticeable in a scene during which Vaccaro and the rest of his team are huddled late at night at a small table discussing their game plan to win over the Jordans. The fashion, offices, and hairstyles all feel meticulously dated and accurate to the mid80s. The soundtrack utilizes hits from the time period that all make sense for the film and make each scene feel more important. Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” is specifically referenced—which works perfectly in the story as his album of the same name came out in 1984. One specific sequence in the opening credits of the film establishes this setting seamlessly as Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” is played over clips of movies, shows, and events of the 80s.

“AIR” is now playing in theaters.

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