‘Air’ Movie Poster | Credit: Courtesy

With so many other things in the zeitgeist about Ben Affleck, it’s easy to forget what a consistently solid director he is. His latest film, Air — based on the true story of Nike’s team and their quest to sign a young Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal — is a reminder of how skilled he is. From Argo to The Town to Gone Baby Gone, each of his films have been well done. Like the others in skill, but nothing like them thematically, Air is also entertaining from start to finish, which is in itself an accomplishment given that we know the outcome of the story before it even begins. 

It’s a sports movie, with very little actual basketball footage in it. Instead the drama centers mostly on winning a business deal and on Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), as a real-life ’80s-style Dilbert with a passion for hoops and a keen eye for talent. Also on the A-Team squad is Viola Davis as Deloris, Michael Jordan’s no-nonsense mother, as well as Chris Messina, who crunches some scenery Glengarry Glen Ross–style, and steals a few memorable moments as Michael Jordan’s agent. 

I don’t know if it’s Good Will Hunting nostalgia speaking or just the knowledge of their lifelong friendship, but the scenes between Damon and Affleck (as Nike founder Phil Knight) made me think about a comment Dave Karger made about Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival this year: “I feel like the two guests tonight are like the chocolate and peanut butter of the acting world — great individually, but even better together.”

If Farrell and Gleason are chocolate and peanut butter, then Damon and Affleck are wine and cheese, an equally satisfying and perhaps even more versatile pairing. I give this one a solid thumbs-up. 

Air is currently playing at Metropolitan Paseo Nuevo and Metropolitan Camino Real Cinemas. See metrotheatres.com/santa-barbara/showtimes for screening times. 


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