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Excellent acting, a clever script and an engaging subject aren’t quite enough to elevate the effortlessly entertaining Air above a well-made commercial for a sports conglomerate.

It takes guts to pitch a movie that centres completely on a billion-dollar sports company trying to convince an athlete to sign for them. After all: how easy is it ask an audience to emphatize with Nike? Ben Affleck takes up the challenge and nearly gets away with it.

He does so foremost by doubling down on the nostalgia, starting Air with a cute montage of quintessential 1984 imagery, and thereafter using smart production design and a plethora of foot-tapping eighties ditties to tell the tale of how Nike reeled in Michael Jordan.

The casting is spot-on as well. Matt Damon is the perfect, easily relatable everyman in the lead, Affleck himself is an enjoyably quirky Nike CEO Phil Knight and Viola Davis does what she's accustomed to: stealing every scene as Michael Jordan's mom.

Where Air stumbles is in the momentum the film builds, or rather: doesn't. Despite a smart, often funny script the pictures feels more like a collection of interesting scenes than as a compelling whole. Tellingly for a film named Air the picture could have used more breathing room in between the plot to add extra layers to at times thinly-drawn characters.

As a result - and not helped by a final act that is too hagiographic - Air comes over as an inherently intriguing, constantly entertaining film that is ultimately as glib as its eighties setting.

release: 2023

director: Ben Affleck

starring: Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Viola Davis, Jason Bateman


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