Air – Review

Worth seeing: for the performances, hair, music and clothing that help to turn a dubious premise into a film that's more entertaining than the sport it portrays
Director:Ben Affleck
Featuring:Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Asanté Deshon, Barbara Sukowa, Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jason Bateman, Jay Mohr, Julius Tennon, Marlon Wayans, Matthew Maher
Length:112 minutes
Released:5th April 2023


Back in the mid 1980s, Nike made running shoes. They made other shoes too, but no-one really cared about those – especially not basketball players. They just about registered in that chart, with a lowly third place, behind Converse and Adidas.

Nike’s basketball division – led by Howard White (Chris Tucker) and Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman) – desperately needs a big name to sign up, or the division is threatened with closure.

Their chief scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) has his eyes on an upcoming star, Michael Jordan, but his foulmouthed agent, David Falk (Chris Messina), makes it clear that he has no intention of even taking a meeting at a third-rate company.

Sonny decides that the only way he might be able to change Jordan’s mind is to persuade the Nike boss Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) to blow the entire basketball budget on a single player – and go behind Falk’s back by approaching Jordan’s mother (Viola Davis) directly.

But if the plan comes together, they’ll need something to show for it, so their top shoe designer Peter Moore (Matthew Maher) quickly comes up with a basketball shoe he calls the Air Jordan. And the rest, as they say, is history…


A film about how a sports company designed a new shoe to try to woo an upcoming star to sign a sponsorship deal? In a sport I’m not even interested in? No thanks.

But hang on – directed by Ben Affleck and starring the ever reliable Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis alongside Affleck, all on top form – it’s got to be worth a look, right?

While this premise might sound like a tough sell – more so in the UK than the US – it turns out to be a slam dunk. From the 80s music on the soundtrack to the authentic hair-styles and clothing – not least Ben Affleck’s Nike tracksuit – you feel like you’re with them every step of the way.

With snappy dialogue, naturally delivered, the unpredictable way in which the underdogs came from behind to snatch their sporting glory – even though you know the outcome – is as riveting as if we were watching the action play out on the court.

There’s a slightly odd – and perhaps erroneous – decision not to show Michael Jordan’s face – perhaps because it protects the authenticity in that he’s the only character audiences would otherwise recognise.

A set of captions, ahead of the end credits, add some enlightening context to what started off as a dubious premise but blossomed into a surprisingly enjoyable film.