Ben Affleck delivers an instant cult classic with ‘Air’
The Nike Air Jordans have become the household names for sneakers in the last 40 years. Air, directed by Ben Affleck and starring Matt Damon as Sonny Vaccaro, follows Nike's quest for Michael Jordan, giving an inimitable perspective into a deal which changed sports forever.
Initially, I was cynical, thinking it's just another poor addition in a line of badly executed sports films. My reservations, though, were quashed within the first 300 seconds.
Air isn't your typical biographical film. It serves with a perfect dressing of 1980s nostalgia, spiced-up by corporate drama and perfectly seasoned with lots of smalltown American humour.
In 1984, Nike was unrecognisable. Owing to poor sales and no chance in signing top young players, they almost shut down their basketball operations.
This made Nike's talent scout Sonny Vaccaro upset. Despite his best efforts, including organising high-school All-Star games and merchandise giveaways, Nike failed to attract players. Against this backdrop, a chance game-tape analysis of Jordan set into motion a set of incredible events.
Putting his career on the line, Sonny convinced marketing VP Rob Strasser and CEO Phil Knight to allocate the entire budget for Jordan. Although Sonny got harshly rebuffed by agent David Falk, he took matter into his own hands, driving upto the Jordans' house in North Carolina.
His exchange with Jordan's mother, Deloris, was poetic. Sonny flawlessly predicted the meeting outcomes – Converse wouldn't put Jordan over Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as the primary athlete, while Michael's preference, Adidas offered an uncertain future. That convinced Michael to meet Nike.
While Jordan was away, Sonny and Nike's shoe designer, Peter Moore, started designing the prototype. Moore's artiste resulted in the birth of Air Jordan I in only 2 days. They challenged the accepted norms, risking a USD 5,000-per-game fine for not complying to the NBA's 51 percent white-colour scheme.
Sonny was the show-stealer during the pitch. The passion and commitment he showed at THAT improvised speech told the story of someone who fully believed in the latent talents and the competitive mentality which Michael always possessed. The words "money can buy you everything, not immortality" resonates in all walks of life even today.
For his acting, Matt Damon deserves immense plaudits. He literally lived as Sonny Vaccaro. Damon captured Sonny's eccentricity, intelligence, out-of-shape body and knack for sniffing out basketball talents immaculately. Jason Bateman, for his part, delivered the perfect ice to Sonny's fire as Strasser.
Ben Affleck's attention to detail in his performance as Knight, setting props and choosing classical American pop songs throughout the movie, ensured that this movie mastered the art of storytelling through humour and music.
Amidst the brilliant acting and musical storytelling, I couldn't help but respect the cinematography. Depiction of the countryside, Jordans' family home and Nike's smalltown office is as precise as it gets.
In short, Air dribbled with grace, delicately took off and dropped an instantly iconic slam dunk.
Inqiad is manifesting for the Milwaukee Bucks inevitable NBA title run next year. Contact him at [email protected]