‘Air’ Deserves the Bright Lights

by Thomas Fenner ‘24

Air, the highly anticipated sports drama, depicts the relationship between Nike and NBA legend Michael Jordan. Directed and starred by Ben Affleck, Air brings together a stellar cast led by Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother, Jason Bateman as Rob Stasser, and Affleck as Nike founder Phil Knight. The movie displays Nike’s pursuit of Jordan in an era that was dominated by other shoe brands such as Adidas and Converse. Air accurately emphasizes the relentless drive of Vaccaro to land what he saw as a future star in Jordan. 

As we all know, Nike would bring in Jordan as the face of their company on the way to becoming the most popular shoe brand in the world. However, the passionate characters and stellar writing still reels in the viewers even though it is apparent how it will play out. The dialogue felt off the cuff and realistic, and the relationship between Affleck and Damon was apparent throughout the film. Air does a great job of accentuating the struggle of Nike in the early stages and how this one breakthrough, one player, revolutionized the future of their company. The montage added at the beginning of the film really brings the viewers into the 1980’s environment and sets up the movie in a charming and captivating way. 

Even without Jordan being a main character, Air brings an engaging storyline using the people that surround him. Davis gives a masterful performance as Jordan’s mother, Deloris, through her formidable presence. It is clear when watching that even though her son is the superstar, Deloris was in control of every scene she was in. Damon’s performance as Sonny Vaccaro demonstrates Nike’s insistence to land the North Carolina draftee. From constantly scouting Jordan to showing up at his house to speak with his parents, Damon as Vaccaro brings steady tension to the story. However, Damon and the rest of the cast find a good balance of comedic relief throughout the film. The writers do a fantastic job of making this a humorous movie as much as a drama. Watching Damon act as though he carries the burden of the company on his shoulders brings a sense of entertaining stress to his character.  The audience is continually wondering if Vaccaro will break down at any moment under the pressure. 

Damon and Affleck’s relationship is the most impactful part of this film. Being very close in real life, it is apparent that the actors both play off of each other very well and almost make the audience feel like they are eavesdropping on real conversations between Phil Knight and Sonny Vaccaro. Knight has to battle between the Nike board members telling him to play it safe, and Vaccaro on his other shoulder begging him to take a chance that could possibly sink the basketball division of the company. Air does a great job of not just being a funnel of history, but also develops characters and scenes that make this movie entertaining at all times. Affleck does a great job both behind the camera and in front of it, and Alex Convery’s writing and dialogue bring the film together perfectly. 

Grade: B+