Note: The writer was invited to an advanced screening of ‘Air’ through SM Cinemas and Warner Brothers Philippines.
MANILA, Philippines – Michael Jordan is a name that needs no introduction. As far as titles go, he has the most prestigious one in the sport of basketball, still considered by many as the “greatest player of all time.”
While a significant handful might point to Jordan’s on-court heroics to validate that claim which still stands the test of time, there’s no denying his game-changing impact in the shoe market is an integral chapter in his rich overall story and, one can argue, corporate America.
In Air, which hits Philippine theaters on April 19, the layers of how Jordan’s marriage with Nike which catapulted their reputation to what was once considered unthinkable heights are peeled back through a medium that provides entertainment from start to finish, and balances the viewing appetite of both die-hard hoop junkie and casual observer.
Headlined by a cast of Viola Davis, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck, the story focuses on Nike’s chase of Jordan in the offseason prior to his NBA debut in the hopes of turning their financial challenge around in the basketball department.
The film, set in 1984, reminisces on how Nike, despite being publicly sold with a value of nearly a billion dollars, was still a far third in the battle of basketball sales against Converse and Adidas, the latter of which was close to securing Jordan’s commitment because, among many reasons, of its track suits and a Mercedes-Benz.
Damon and Affleck’s off-camera friendship jumps off the screen as the two banter impressively playing the influential Sonny Vacaro and eccentric Nike CEO Phil Knight, respectively.
Vacaro, under the pressure of both a limited budget and scarce time, pulls out every stop in the book for Jordan to consider Nike during the courtship period, beginning with a risky visit to the Jordans’ home in North Carolina that acts as the first domino in a chain of amusing events.
Viola plays Jordan’s mother, Deloris, who shines as the emotional fulcrum between His Airness and his desperate but ingenious suitors, and would later on play a pivotal role in one of the most impactful decisions the sports history books will ever record.
The real-life MJ was insistent that Davis played his mother, who he has profound respect for, according to reports. He got his wish and the result turned out for the best.
The 112-minute movie has both basketball and pop culture references to nearly 40 years ago, highlighted by a terrific soundtrack.
Although the physical presence of Michael himself in the film takes a back seat, his luminance constantly shines with the possibility of what feels like an unavoidable abundance of accomplishments still to come.
That gravitas adds a level of importance to the film’s main chase and paves the way for Nike’s out-of-the-box ideas that later blossomed as a staple in today’s shoe market.
Key figures in the story also get their proper shine, namely Jordan’s agent David Falk (Chris Messina), creative genius Peter Moore (Matthew Maher), marketing strategist Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), and hilarious Howard White (Chris Tucker).
The comedy stands out in the film’s dialogue and acts as good segue for different transitions. The entire movie operates knowing what it aims to accomplish, highlighted by a passionate moment in the third act that would take even the most hardcore Jordan fan on a spiritual rollercoaster ride.
Some viewers may consider the predictability a reason to grab popcorn halfway through the film, but those who appreciate the story’s appeal – especially fans already knowledgeable with the bits and pieces of this real-life tale – will find it difficult to turn their eye even for a second.
Air hits the mark. – Rappler.com
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