AIR. Inspirational sports and footwear drama [REVIEW]

Because even a movie about shoes can be a great, inspiring entertainment.

Przemysław Mudlaff

9 April 2023

After watching a movie in the cinema, I like to listen to the opinions of the viewers, who express them hotly, stomping in the crowd, in the corridor of the cinema hall when leaving it. In fact, I think that I am dealing with the most sincere, purest reactions, not dressed up in additional later considerations. While leaving the Air, I overheard the tall young man expressing his disappointment that he didn’t see more basketball action on the screen. His companion asked him, does that mean he didn’t like Air? “No, he was fucking awesome!” replied the young man.

I am writing about this because Air is a rather specific cinema. A film whose description or trailer makes it hard to imagine that it has something that will attract the audience, which will allow them to sit in the cinema with pleasure for almost 2 hours. Ok, a galaxy of stars will appear on the screen with Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Viola Davis at the forefront, but Air is actually an adaptation of an anecdote. So what can be awesome about one of the biggest business and sports deals in history? How to provoke the viewer to support the employees of one of the largest clothing companies in the world today? How to build tension by telling a story, the ending of which probably everyone knows? Ben Affleck knows the answers to these questions, because Air – according to the young man’s brief but accurate opinion from the introduction – turned out to be an inspiring, fascinating and extremely enjoyable sports and footwear drama.

"A shoe is just a shoe until someone puts it on"


Air is set in the 1980s, specifically in 1984. We are informed about this by the beginning of the film, which presents snapshots of the most important events of that period. Smells of nostalgia? Of course! After all, it’s one of the elements that makes Air cool. Practically every action, even the most trivial one, performed by the heroes of Affleck’s production is accompanied by a musical hit from those years. In the dancing, colorful 1984, Nike was known primarily for creating great running shoes. Although it is hard to believe today, their market share in the basketball market was only 17%. Converse and Adidas shoes dominated the NBA courts at that time. Everything pointed to the fact that Nike’s basketball department at that time either needed to be restructured or shut down. However, the board decided to give him one last chance. So he allocated $250,000 to find NBA stars who would make their shoes sell out. One of the people who were to influence the change of face of Nike on the basketball market was supposed to be a certain Sonny Vaccaro, a seasoned basketball expert and small-time gambler, who decided that it would be most reasonable to offer the entire budget for one rookie, Michael Jordan, and create personalized footwear for him. “A shoe is just a shoe until someone puts it on” – these words are pronounced several times in Air. The someone in the quote above for all the people associated with Nike’s basketball division was Michael Jordan. So he was then not only a rising sports star, but also a rescue for a sinking boat with a characteristic skate in the logo engraved on both sides of the side. It was enough to convince him. The problem was that MJ wanted nothing to do with Nike.

"Just Do It"


“Just Do It” is the famous advertising slogan that Nike invented 4 years after signing a globally unique contract with Michael Jordan. These are most likely also the words with which Ben Affleck convinced the co-producers of Air to create it. In addition to referring to nostalgia and the person of the greatest athlete in the history of mankind, another component of Air’s success is its script. Interestingly, the man behind the script for Affleck’s film is Alex Convery, a novice in the field. However, lack of experience did not prevent him from creating humorous and accurate retorts of natural dialogues and stories worthy of those written by Aaron Sorkin. However, a well-constructed source material does not mean that it will make a perfect movie. Convery’s captivating story wouldn’t have worked without Robert Richardson’s brilliant cinematography, William Goldenberg’s dynamic editing and Ben Affleck’s sensational return to the camera. In general, I wouldn’t mind if Ben directed more often. He is not only a vigilant, attentive and meticulous artist, but he is also not afraid to make interesting, often controversial choices. In Air, for example, he decided not to show viewers the one who is to become the new face of Nike. So we see only his silhouette, we hear his voice through the telephone receiver. This treatment allows recipients to focus on the backstage of Jordan’s fame, appreciate his impact on pop culture and the lives of millions of people. This choice also meant that we do not look away from those who contributed to this success and this legacy, namely his mother, Deloris and Sonny Vaccaro.

Dream Team


In 1992, during the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, the United States basketball team consisted of the best NBA players. This team won the gold medal and was called the Dream Team. Ben Affleck also appointed the Actors’ Dream Team to create Air. In addition to leading his Dream Team to ultimate success, he decided to help them with his acting skills. Bravura, but without exaggeration, played the role of Phil Knight, the head of Nike, probably the most eccentric character in Air. However, Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro deserves the greatest applause for his acting performance, who with his extraordinary ordinariness convinces viewers to himself and his vision in virtually every scene of the production. It’s also incredibly enjoyable to watch Damon and Affleck banter in a few scenes together. These sequences of shots literally emanate the warmth and friendship developed over the years between the men. As usual, Viola Davis is also great here as Deloris Jordan. She is a caring mother who believes in her son’s uniqueness even more than Vaccaro. There are also significant cameo appearances in Air by the traditionally machine-gun word-shooting Chris Tucker as Howard White and Chris Messina as Jordan’s edgy but absolutely hilarious agent David Falk. Also worth mentioning are the performances of acting chameleon Jason Bateman and another of Affleck’s pals, Matthew Maher.


Despite all its advantages, Air is by no means an outstanding cinema. It is true, however, that at no point is there any such aspiration. He doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Ben Affleck’s goal was to create a film out of love for basketball, for Michael Jordan. Light, funny, pleasant, buddy production. So it’s best to sit down to the Air screening without any expectations. You will see that you will be immersed in this story completely and you will find that even a movie about shoes can be excellent, inspiring entertainment.

Przemysław Mudlaff

Przemysław Mudlaff

He appreciates the truth and sincerity of the intentions of its creators in cinema. He loves to be emotionally kicked and abused by the film, but also happy and amused. A hunter of film curiosities, references and connections. A fan of the works of PTA, von Trier, Kieślowski, Lantimos and Villeneuve. What he likes the most is talking about the cinema over a beer, and the beer has to be cold and thick, you know what.

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