Affleck has made several great films in his career, from the pulse-pounding heist flick “The Town” to his Best Picture winner “Argo.” Yet, what’s most interesting about “Air” is that it is, on the surface, just a movie where a bunch of guys talk on the phone or talk in an office building while trying to make a big deal happen. There’s not a lot of action in the cinematic sense, nor is there something 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 one very specific element of the game.
That being the case, Affleck doesn’t have the benefit of getting to infuse the film with actual on-the-court drama to beef things up. It’s a performance-driven, human piece of filmmaking that lives or dies by the words on the page and the people saying those words. Fortunately, the script by Alex Convery is a compelling one and the ensemble cast is stacked in this movie’s favor, almost ridiculously so. Damon is at his quiet, charming best here, while Viola Davis, perhaps the finest actor walking the planet, lends her talents for a wildly important supporting role as Deloris Jordan, Michael Jordan’s Mom.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as we also get great 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 makes a movie ostensibly about a shoe deal play like gangbusters. It is a true crowd-pleaser without much of anything flashy to disguise the cracks in the pavement.