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

Affleck has made several great films throughout his career, from the pulsating heist flick “The Town” to his Best Picture winner “Argoon.” What’s most interesting about “Air,” though, is that it’s superficially just a movie about a bunch of guys talking on the phone or talking in an office building trying to make a big deal happen. There’s not a lot of action in the cinematic sense, and nothing as dramatic as the kidnappings like in “Gone Baby Gone.” What we’re left with instead is a sports story that isn’t really about the sport in question (in this case, basketball), but instead about the people behind the scenes of one very specific element of the game.

Thus, Affleck does not have the benefit of adding any real theatrical drama to the film. It’s a performance-driven, human piece of cinema that lives or dies by the words on the page and the people who say them. Fortunately, Alex Convery’s script is engaging and the cast is in this film’s favor, almost laughably so. Damon is at his quiet, charming best here, while Viola Davis, perhaps the best actress walking the planet, lends her talents in a wildly important supporting role as Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s mother.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as we also get great performances from the likes of Jason Bateman, Chris Messina and, refreshingly, Chris Tucker. Not to mention, Affleck himself is hilarious as Nike founder Phil Knight. In any case, the A-list Cast makes the film seem like a shoe store and play like gangbusters. It’s a real crowd, with not much of anything flashy to cover the cracks in the pavement.

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