Matt Damon shines in Air, a film that recounts the story of how Nike rose as a brand while Ben Affleck demonstrates (once again) that he is a better director than an actor.
Directed by Ben Affleck
efore embarking on the mission to watch Air, a film that requires approximately two hours of your time, certain things must be put in context.
Watching any film that is related to the world of sports can be a risky business. It must leave regular tropes and formulaic ideas in the past. Or, it will fall flat on its face.
The reason is simple: between television, streaming and pre-strea-ming era, nearly every sporting sub-ject has been touched upon and in memorable ways.
From a television series like One Tree Hill (school basketball) and Friday Night Lights (school football) to cinematic offerings like Rush (Formula One), Happy Gilmore (Golf), Moneyball (baseball), Jerry Maguire (sports agent), Rocky franchise (boxing), Ford v Ferrari (race cars) and Ali (the tale of the most legendary boxer in history), the sporting subject has been a subject that has been tackled by a number of filmmakers.
Having said that, Air is among the aforementioned films because in short, it is a well-executed film for multiple reasons.
Leaving his Bourne identity attitude behind - that those films required - Matt Damon is the star of this vehicle as Sonny Vaccaro, the man who sees the future and therefore finds a way to court Michael Jordan to switch to Nike; it began the Nike public campaign that created a larger market for the sports company.
A savant of sorts, Sonny’s eye for talent is unmistakable but the company he works for – Nike – is not a success story as the film opens. What the film’ sharp narrative does is that it invites us to time travel and learn what led to ultimate success of Nike and how Vaccaro played a huge role in its rise.
No one has much faith in Vaccaro because he believes more money needs to be spent to sign popular players from NBA even as the company is running at a loss. Imagine a time in the eighties when a brand like Nike (super popular now) was being beaten in the basketball arena by a brand called Converse, which had a 50 percent share, followed by Adidas with a 29 percent share and Nike at the bottom of the barrel with a mere 17 percent market share. The way Vaccaro changed the stakes and brought Nike to stardom is the story that’s bound to capture your imagination.
In fact, from the very opening, we know we’re in for a cultural ride as it shows glimpses of former American presidents, Wham, then-Prince and heir to the throne, HRH Charles and then-Princess, HRH Princess Diana, a young Bruce Jenner playing in the Olympics and astronauts in space. But it is during a school pep rally where we encounter Matt Damon’s Sonny and learn about his ideas that would bring success to Nike.
Ben Affleck, who is the boss of Matt Damon’s Sonny reminds him of the significant losses the company has sustained and the view of the board. But it is almost like an epiphany Sonny has that only when a major athlete like Michael Jordan wears a Nike product will its market share change.
What happens next is the incredible story of how Nike rose from the ashes to become a company that is now often selected by rappers, actors, and sports players as their brand of choice across different sports such as tennis, and cricket.
Matt Damon envelopes the role like the A-grade actor he has developed into overtime and the supporting cast is also selected carefully and works.
The only thing to remember is that when Ben Affleck enters the frame, he struggles in the role. However, Affleck makes up for it by his direction.
To call a spade a spade, Ben Affleck is a better director than an actor. Films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and the Oscar-winning Argo (with its skewed version of history) showcase this fact very well. Therefore, as a director we expected good things from Affleck and he does deliver but as an actor, Air rides on the coattails of Matt Damon as well as a story that tells you how pop cultural icons can change the success story of an entire company.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection