Ben Affleck Gives Nike and Air Jordan the Moneyball Treatment (SXSW 2023)

Affleck has made several great films in his career, from the pulse-pounding heist “The Town” to his Best Picture winner “Argo.” Still, the most interesting thing about “Air” is that, on the surface, it’s just a movie about a bunch of guys talking on the phone or talking in an office building while trying to make a big deal happen. There isn’t much action in the cinematic sense, nor is there anything as dramatic as a kidnapping like we had in “Gone Baby Gone.” Instead, what we’re left with is a sports story that isn’t really about the sport in question (in this case, basketball) and is instead about the people behind the scenes of a very specific element of the game.

That being the case, Affleck doesn’t have the benefit of getting to infuse the film with any actual drama on the pitch to improve things. It’s a performance-driven, human piece of filmmaking that lives or dies by the words on the page and the people who say those words. Fortunately, the script by Alex Convery is compelling and the ensemble cast is stacked in favor of this film, almost laughably so. Damon is at his quiet, charming best here, while Viola Davis, perhaps the finest actress walking the planet, lends her talents to a wildly important supporting role as Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s mother.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg, as we also get fantastic performances from the likes of Jason Bateman, Chris Messina and, rather refreshingly, Chris Tucker. Not to mention that Affleck himself is a great deal of fun as Nike founder Phil Knight. In any case, an A-list cast making a movie ostensibly about a shoe deal plays like gangbusters. It’s a true crowd-pleaser without much of anything flashy to hide the cracks in the pavement.

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