SXSW 2023: AIR

The programmers delivered yet another treat to the festival attendees for the second “Special” screening and closing night headliner of SXSW. The film was the latest offering from filmmaker Ben Affleck, and his movie tells the true story behind arguably the most iconic labels in athletic shoe history. While everyone knows how this story plays out, this was the challenge of Affleck, screenwriter Alex Convery, and the cast to pull off successfully. And in a similar fashion to Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, Affleck and his team succeed in offering audiences a movie that is riveting, entertaining, and exciting.

During the 1980s, Nike struggled to remain a viable and successful brand of athletic shoes. In contrast, other brands, such as Converse and Adidas, dominated due to athletic endorsements by top-named athletes making big dollars for their labels. Ambitious Nike salesman Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) aims to do the same for his brand by hoping to sign who he believes will become the biggest star of the professional sports world. Vaccaro sets his sights on gifted basketball forward Michael Jordan despite his naysayers. The hungry Nike personality uses this appetite for success, much like Jordan would eventually display in his arena, and this partnership would forever change the landscape of shoes and sports.

Between Affleck’s talented direction and Convery’s palpable script, Air already had the makings of another great underdog movie. However, the excellent casting choices are what make this movie indeed fly. Affleck knew what he was doing by casting his best friend and gifted actor Matt Damon in the lead role as Sonny Vaccaro. Damon embraces the role with much passion, grit, and charisma that it is nearly impossible not to support his case.

If Michael Jordan was the key player to his team, Damon is the MVP of this film. However, like a winning sports team, one person cannot carry it alone. Acting talents Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Viola Davis, and Julius Tennon are the backing team Damon needed to drive this story to heart. Of course, Ben Affleck himself is a treat to watch as Nike bossman Phil Knight.

Of course, the premise here is simple, and the goal transparent; however, Affleck and his great team bring their A-game to an exciting story. Air soars beyond its basic premise and would not have succeeded, had it been executed by a lesser team.

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