6.5/10 “Air” follows films like “The Social Network” and the upcoming “BlackBerry” in a more recent subgenre of dramatic films about a business or business collaboration origin story. While “Air” is certainly no “The Social Network”, overall the film is a breath of fresh…air…in director Ben Affleck’s directorial filmography. The film certainly has flaws but is highly entertaining and Alex Convery’s script is able to balance smooth exposition with some emotional heart. Before I get to the highlights of this film, I will get the missed shots out of the way first. I have to admit some trepidation to praise a film about Nike, an evil company which makes its products in Asian sweatshops and while they even hint at this in the film, it is sad to see how far Nike’s morals have fallen in pursuit of the almighty dollar since the mid 1980s. The film is shot by one of today’s best cinematographers and regular Quentin Tarantino collaborator Robert Richardson but Richardson’s usual, moody period piece work seems an odd choice for a 1980s film like this and one bar scene featuring Matt Damon’s Sonny Vaccaro and Chris Tucker’s Howard White had some distracting cinematography/editing where a normal conversation featured odd camera movements and zoom ins mid sentence which didn’t work at all. Another problem with the film relates to the music. While there were only two brief original pieces of music for the score, the vast majority of the soundtrack is dominated by 80s music, since the film takes place in 1984. Instead of carefully selecting songs specific to each scene, Affleck just throws everything at the wall to see what sticks and the film is over bloated with 80s songs; sometimes lasting only for ten or 15 seconds total. It felt like Affleck threw a dart at a jukebox song selection list and then just forced in each song for scene transitions/filler. Only Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” stood out due to actual dialogue in the film about the song. Every other song choice could have been switched out with another song and it wouldn’t have made a difference. A somewhat comical scene with Chris Messina’s David Falk exploding on a phone call with Vaccaro went a little bit too far as well. Instead of giving the audience just enough comical insults, the scene didn’t know when to end and ended up beating a dead horse. Finally, the film oddly never wants to showcase Michael Jordan himself. Like a James Bond villain who isn’t revealed until midway through the film in a surprise twist, Affleck decides to hide the man whom the entire film revolves around, only showing him from behind or hearing his voice. I don’t see what benefit the film achieved from not showing more of him, unless they couldn’t find any actor who looked like a younger Jordan, which I am not buying. Despite those negative aspects, there is enough of the film that works to where I would recommend that this film be seen, especially from sports junkies and particularly basketball fans. The acting is fantastic across the board and I enjoyed that Tucker’s White character acted as the comic relief, which was used sparingly enough to be impactful. While many egotistical directors shoehorn themselves into their films (Tarantino, Shyamalan) or would expand their roles within the film, Affleck (Phil Knight) wisely keeps his role to a supporting one and doesn’t inflate his screen time which would have taken away from Damon as the leading man. The pacing is perfect and the characters were memorable and colorful. The story happens to be a fascinating one and even though some of the tension at the end of the film is diminished by knowing how the story ended in real life, that didn’t detract too much from the film’s emotional strengths. Jason Bateman was one of the highlights as Rob Strasser and while Bateman has been directing more as of late, his performance here is a reminder at how strong his acting can be with the right role. Viola Davis also stood out as Michael’s mother Deloris as the film shows how financially savvy she was when it came to the business side of managing and looking after her son’s best interests. A board room meeting scene featured some flash forwards in time with real footage of Michael Jordan and some of the hardships he faced in the media in everything from his baseball career to his father’s death and everything in between and while it was a gamble to feature real footage of Jordan in the film, Affleck’s gamble paid off. While the film’s flaws prevent this from Amazon Studios and Warner Brothers’ higher hopes of Academy Award nominations next year, the film is still worth checking out for the fascinating true story, terrific ensemble acting, strong pacing and just the right combination of drama, humor and heart.

#FeaturingHowardBlack / #WrittenByAlexConverse / #GoFalkYourself / #StrassedOut / #LikeAChicagoBullInAChineseSweatShop / #PhilOfTheFuture

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