Air movie review 2023 Ben Affleck seals the deal of the origin story of Michael Jordan

Posted on 15 April 2023
By Andy Johnson
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The power of nostalgia is highly underestimated. Air, the movie of the genus of the most iconic sneaker of all time transports us to 1984 with a thunderous Tomahawk Dunk of retro power.

Director Ben Affleck places us soley in that golden year, with little nods such as Ghostbusters stickers, Rubix Cubes and an eclectic toe tapping soundtrack guaranteed to get you in the groove.

As these deft touches sink into the subconscious, you can’t help but reflect that pretty much everything we hold dear today culturally, was born in that glorious pre-internet era.

Although at Nike, 1984 was a year where the writing was on the wall of the Oregon HQ. With a dwindling market share as their jogging shoes sales slacked, they were desperately seeking the next big thing.

Enter a doughy Matt Damon as middle aged Nike basketball talent scout, Sonny Vacarro, who’s belief in what Michael Jordan was capable of becoming, has shaped modern culture as we know it.

VHS and the glory of analogue seeps into every pore of this movie, as Sonny searches through hours of tape, scanning to find the one true player who could rescue Nike’s perilous position of near bankruptcy. 

‘Run the video’… says director Ben Affleck, who also delivers a pitch perfect performance as Frank Knight, Nike CEO when he comes in late to the pitch meeting, desperate to impress the Jordan family and the matriarch Delores Jordan.

The business story behind the movie is fascinating. Essentially it is a story of belief, but as the script unfolds, we realise the narrative also celebrates how the power of a collective can combine into something sublime. 

Who knew Michael Jordan was going to transcend the sport of basketball, become a global icon… Who else can call Bugs Bunny, Scottie Pippen and Michael Jackson amongst his sidekicks?

“Nobody! You’d better eat your Wheaties!”

You don’t need to have a supreme knowledge of basketball culture to enjoy this film, but it definitely hits all the sweet spots if you do.

The secondary story follows the strong, black female character of MJ’s mother, played by Viola Davis with understated aplomb.

She is famously the one who nudged Michael towards Nike, he was intent on Adidas, who were cooler at the time, largely due to the Run DMC song – ‘My Adidas’.

The relationship formed between Sonny and Delores, is central to the success of the story. When he says: ‘a shoe is just a shoe… until someone steps into it.’ She retorts: ‘a shoe is just a shoe until my son steps into it’… and we all know she’s right.

What many might not know is that Delores was pivotal in negotiating the shared revenue deal that still earns him more than $400 million in passive income per year.

The mystery and aura Ben Affleck creates around the young MJ is a masterclass in cinema storytelling. We only ever see the actor’s side profile, but he stalks the corridors of Nike like a young Black Cat, destined to leave every team and player in the NBA quaking in his wake.

When the soon to be Chicago Bull player holds the prototype red shoe and the Nike execs say they will pay the NBA fines for wearing a shoe that doesn’t match their 51 per cent white peremeters. You know something special in history is set to happen.

The montage of Jordan’s real life story will get you in all the feels, during what has to go straight into the top 5 motivational speech scenes in cinema history. 

When Matt Damon steals the spotlight to tell MJ he knows what he’s capable of and how he’s going to inspire the world, you feel stuck to your seat in nervous anticipation, even though we all know the outcome.

Air is somewhat like a sequel to Good Will Hunting on steroids for basketball heads. Chris Tucker also deserves a mention for bringing his unique voice to the role of player turned Nike exec Howard White.

When he states: ‘nobody knows what the hell a Nike shoe is…’ it’s a funny moment that sets up the triumph later in the movie.

We realise how far the global megalith of shoes has come in the past 40 years. And it’s largely down to this deal which created the personality around Michael Jordan.

But also under acknowledged in pop culture history is Nike’s eccentric shoe designer Peter Moore, who we discover is responsible for the name Air Jordan and the Jumpman silhouette. Played by character actor Matthew Mayer.

The meeting is everything. What a movie – watch it on the big screen while you can.

Purple Revolver rating – Air Jordan 4’s outta 5

We watched the movie at Liverpool’s FACT cinema. Enjoy your fave flicks in supreme comfort and with refreshments from the bar. Check out what’s on now: