Air: A Short and Sweet Film about Shoes

“It’s a film about shoes,” said Mark Kermode in his review of Air. I can’t see how this could possibly be bad thing (after all, Tetris is getting it’s own TV series too). And yes, on a basic level Air is about shoes, more specifically the development of Nike’s Air Jordan range. But it’s also a very American story about how an underdog company (Nike) managed to sign one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the earth (Michael Jordan). And they all lived happily ever after.

I’ll start by pointing out the film’s flaws. This is, of course, a film that celebrates making lots of money. Easy to call this a bit shallow as a major plot device. Some of the fantastic cast members (Viola Davis in particular) don’t get the screen time they deserve. Sonny, the film’s main character, does not seem to have a private life. Or if he does, we don’t get to see it. In places the film feels almost too lean: the focus is so much on The Deal that nothing else seems to matter. And some of Sonny’s speeches are so cheesy you could spread them on crackers.

With all that out of the way, let me go on to say that I enjoyed Air very much. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, who produced the film together and appear in major roles, clearly had a fantastic time making it. The eighties feel of the film is wonderful, from the oversized phones and outfits to the soundtrack (Dire Straits, anyone?). Some scenes are very, very funny – the chemistry between Damon and Jason Bateman as Michael Jordan’s agent in particular is hilarious. And although the film can easily be read as a celebration of capitalism, it also documents a major shift in sports marketing. For the very first time an athlete received a percentage of the profit made from every single product with his name on it. Sure, Jordan became almost ridiculously wealthy as a result, but he also paved the way for better treatment of those that followed him.

And perhaps we’re all so used now to films that run for well over three hours (even the latest John Wick film now seems to need that much time to tell its presumably not-too-complicated story) that a nice compact film simply catches us off guard. While I would have liked to see more of the Jordan family’s internal dynamics, for example, I enjoyed the fact that the film never drags and doesn’t include a single superfluous scene. It tells a simple story and it tells it well. It’s solid and well-made. This is the first film coming from the production company Affleck and Damon set up together and I for me will be curious to see where they’re heading next.

Photo by Stephen Baker on Unsplash

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