The first thing to know about Air is that you already know the ending. …Or do you? You know that Nike makes kicks called Air Jordan. But did you know that the sneaker behemoth was once, before Air Jordan, a hair’s-breadth from dismantling its entire fledgling basketball division? Nike was predominantly known as a running shoe company in 1985.
The other thing you know going into Air is that any film with Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as the main talent, as the producers and directors aka above the line, is going to be good. And Air is good. It doesn’t hurt when you cast the great Viola Davis either. Or this other actor you may have heard of, Jason Bateman. And the film lets these talents get right to it, lets them show off their range.
It easily answers the question, can you make an interesting movie if the audience already knows the outcome? Yes you can. The movie is also a love letter to 1985 and all the products that went along with it. The montages of TV spots, the costumes and art direction were on point.
The film also flips the script on your traditional white savior story trope. In this movie, the savior is a 6’-6” African-American with an incredibly silky jumper, ice in his veins and a mom with a savvy business sense. It reminded me of The Founder, the story of Ray Kroc and McDonalds, in some ways. As D pointed out of the comparison, Damon’s character, Sonny Vaccaro, becomes obsessed with a singular mission. Not to be cast aside, the character of CEO Phil Knight is played with hilarity and pathos by Affleck. But we are left to wonder about the means of production. Who makes these ethereal, leather bound beauties, that allow a man to defy gravity? That part of the story, besides a passing line by Bateman’s Marketing VP Strasser, never gets the spotlight. The film isn’t about a few folks reaping billions from the work of below minimum wage off-shore laborers, forced labor, child laborers in sweatshops. That’s a different movie. This one is about the tenacity and vision of someone who risked it all, thinking outside the box and who ultimately championed athletes. …Though that other question is left to float like the iconic Air Jordan logo.
The epilogue of the film, the little montage you often see of, “Where Are They Now” is simply jaw-dropping. And I didn’t wonder, as I had before the movie started, why Damon and Affleck chose this particular story to tell.