Review: Matt Damon stars as an executive trying to score big for Nike in entertaining 'Air,' directed by pal Ben Affleck

Mark Meszoros, The News-Herald (Willoughby, Ohio) on

Published in Entertainment News

“Air” has a tricky task: make folks care about a hugely profitable basketball shoe-endorsement deal from nearly 40 years ago.

This isn’t trying to break the Watergate story.

It’s not trying to catch the Zodiac Killer.

It’s not getting Osama bin Laden.

It’s Nike signing future basketball superstar Michael Jordan to a contract that, to this day, makes both entities piles of cash.

But what “Air” — a big offering from Amazon Studios set to hit theaters Wednesday and with no confirmed date for when it will hit Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service — has going for it is the tried-and-true combination of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.


The latter stars in the film as Sonny Vaccaro, the passion behind Nike’s then-fledgling basketball division. Affleck, meanwhile, portrays Nike founder Phil Knight but, more importantly, for the first time directs his longtime friend and acting partner in films including 1997’s “Good Will Hunting” and, much more recently, “The Last Duel.” (“Air” is the first offering from the Artists Equity, the production company the pair started last year.)

Affleck certainly knows his buddy’s strengths, and the galvanizing performance by Damon (“The Bourne Identity,” “The Martian”) is one of the biggest reasons “Air” is so steadily entertaining.

“Air” is briskly paced and squeezes its mid-1980s setting for all its juice. Mainly, that comes in the form of a parade of pop hits, starting with Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” and blissfully banging on throughout the movie, so music supervisor Andrea von Foerster (“Yellowstone”) and music editor Cory Milano deserve major props. However, it goes beyond that, from a take-you-back montage of iconic 1980s moments (and marketing campaigns!) to the thorough production design of Francois Audouy (“Ford v Ferrari”) and convincing costume work of Charlese Antoinette Jones (“Judas and the Black Messiah”).

It’s hard to believe it now, but Nike then was not popular with hoopers in the same way competitors such as Adidas and Converse were. Nike, the movie makes clear, was thought of as a “running shoe” brand.


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