Men, women, big and small. All of us at some point have wanted to have some Air Jordan. Some because we were able to see, face to face or on television, the basketball legend that gave rise to said brand, and others, although they have only been able to enjoy it on YouTube virals. The truth is, who wouldn’t want to have in their closet a pair of sneakers with the logo of the legendary Chicago Bulls shooting guard soaring through the air as only he knew how to do it?
This is one of the main premises of “Air”, the most recent film directed by Ben Affleck that has Viola Davis and Matt Damon in the leading roles. It is a two-hour drama that came to the cinema a few weeks ago and has just been released in Prime Video.
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Although this is the story of the agreement between the then young Michael Jordan with the Nike brand for a five-year sponsorship, it would be a mistake to think that the former basketball player has a place here. It has not been the intention of Affleck and the screenwriter Alex Convery to delve into the legend, but how a sports product company jumps from third place to first in profits thanks to an absolutely risky bet, one of those that occur once in a lifetime .
“Air” is set in the mid-1980s. With Converse and Adidas on top, Nike has a pragmatic director (Phil Knight/Ben Affleck) urging good results for the basketball division. And for that purpose he has Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), a kind of ‘Mr. Miyagi’ in the collegiate divisions of said sport. Along with him there is a series of characters linked to different areas of production. From the ‘marketer’ Rob Strasser (an aging Jason Bateman) to the genius shoe designer Peter Moore (Matthew Maher), passing through the charismatic vice president Howard White (Chris Tucker).
“Air” He takes a few minutes to show us how in the offices of this sports brand the way to give the big blow to the competition is planned. The problem is that there is not much money available. And since from the heads they seek to give better results by spending the right amount, Sonny Vaccaro ends up in big trouble. And he points it out in every meeting where he plans which basketball star project he plans to fall in love with from the university tournaments. Thus, names will circulate, some that would emerge some time later, and others that ended up submerged in the most absolute anonymity.
But since Sonny’s job is to choose whoever will help Nike pull off the big hit, he weeds out candidates one by one until he meets young Michael Jordan. This is when we could properly say that “Air” takes a second impulse. With the objective clear, we will witness a dance of figures, proposals, counter-proposals, meetings and cranky agents (here David Falk is played notably by Chris Messina).
Affleck’s movie has both hits and misses. It is a drama anchored in a success story. In that sense, Matt Damon faithfully interprets what Sonny Vaccaro represents: a ‘discoverer’ convinced that he is before perhaps the opportunity of a lifetime from him. But this is not surprising at all, because it is not the first time that the 52-year-old actor defies logic. Just remember his role in “Rescue Mission,” the 2015 space drama in which he played Mark Watney, the only astronaut left ‘locked’ on Mars after his ship crashed.
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Vaccaro has everything to lose, not only because his company does not want to give him so many funds to insure his ‘chosen’, but also because the athlete himself has said brand in his last place of priorities. But even with Agent Falk lying to him about his mother after learning that he visited Michael’s mother in Wilmington, North Carolina, Sonny won’t give up.
Without the possibility of seeing Michael Jordan in almost the entire film, “Air” has preferred to reinforce aspects such as dialogues to the delight of viewers. So we can see Phil Knight go from saying his car “needs 17 coats of paint to get its purple color” to yelling at Sonny for concrete results by following “the basic principles that made Nike a billion-dollar business.” ”.
In the same sense, we could highlight some of the talks that Sonny had with Rob Strasser. When the former explains why he does not want to sign three players but only one (“Michael will not wear the shoe. He is the shoe”), but fundamentally when –already embarked on the adventure of convincing the athlete and his family– the ‘marketero’ warns his partner that his ambitious bet could leave him unemployed. “I have to be a father for four hours on Sundays in the park (…) I started taking my daughter Nike shoes every Sunday. I do it so that she loves me. She already has 60 pairs. And if I mean something because of them, if Phil closes this area, I’m not ashamed to say that I would continue buying them, even if it means giving Phil money and they are made in Taiwan (…) but I don’t want that. I just want my daughter to love me and I want my job.”
Even much better than these dialogues we can identify those led by Viola Davis as Deloris Jordan, the mother of the basketball player. The two hours that the film takes only confirm why Michael (the real one) demanded as the only condition for this production that his mother be played by the Oscar winner. Everything is clearer in “Air” when the woman supports the reasons why she is convinced that her son is different. And it becomes clear when she, for example, requires Vaccaro to add as the only condition to the signing of the contract that each pair of shoes sold gives royalties to her conceited:
“I understand that business is unfair. Unfair to my son and to people like you, but very occasionally someone extraordinary appears out of nowhere and forces those at the top to share part of their fortune and they do it not out of charity, but out of greed, because that someone is special ”. (1:30:33).
Despite these virtues,Air” is not round. Perhaps in its desire to get as far away from the basketball player as possible and get closer to those executives behind his first commercial contract, the film largely neglects the context and worse still the background. Assuming perhaps that we all know in depth, not Jordan’s professional stage but the one prior to signing the contract with Nike, a lot of information is skipped that could well help those customers of the shoes (today also polo shirts, shorts, T-shirts and much more) who buy just for a reference to the legend, rather than for having seen the man rise up and dunk the ball through a rim hundreds of times.
AIR/ PRIME VIDEO
Director: Ben Affleck
List: Matt Damon, Viola Davis, Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman
Synopsis: Follow the story of shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro, and how he led Nike in its search for the greatest athlete in basketball history: Michael Jordan.
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