Starring: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, Matthew Maher, and Viola Davis
Director: Ben Affleck
Considering it’s a movie about a shoe deal, which doesn’t sound remotely interesting on the surface, it’s wild just how well Air comes together. Between the terrific performances, banging soundtrack, and inspirational-but-not-overly-sentimental monologues, director Ben Affleck and writer Alex Convery take what could have been an extremely dry corporate story and turn it into a film that pops with the energy of March Madness. Admittedly, certain parts feel a little too breezy, making Air an apt title, but whatever the film lacks in gravitas, it more than makes up for in rousing entertainment value and, for basketball fans of a certain age, pure nostalgia.
Ben Affleck is back in the director’s chair with Air, and while I won’t say it blew me away in any capacity, it is probably about as good as a movie like this can be. The performances are all solid (Ben Affleck and Chris Messina steal the show), the script is workmanlike and structurally sound, and Affleck’s direction is as assured as ever. Somehow, the movie gets you to care that Michael Jordan says yes to a shoe line, and it’s not because of Jordan himself. I do wish the film felt a little more epic to non-NBA followers, though.
I say this with no exaggeration: I left Air with my fists stuck in the air. It’s the kind of crowd-pleaser that you want to experience in a packed theater; one that makes you want to dream big, yet it never feels overly sentimental or cheesy. I know nothing about basketball, but that didn’t matter. I was able to follow this inspiring story through and through, thanks in part to a surprisingly funny script and one hell of an ensemble. I don’t know who I wouldn’t recommend this one to. It’s a movie for everybody.
Air’s structure consists of two main components: needle drops and monologues. One great song sets up an inspiring and superbly acted speech from the likes of Matt Damon (Sonny Vaccaro), Viola Davis (Deloris Jordan), and the rest of the great cast (Matthew Maher as Peter Moore is a standout), which cues the next great song, and so on and so forth. While the film’s last act is a rousing culmination of this round robin, the film would have elevated from really good to great if the entire runtime felt as cohesive as the last 30 minutes.