Air is a must-watch for fans of Moneyball and The Social Network
The almost unbelievable true-life drama arrives in cinemas this week.
There is a certain kind of movie that hits a sweet spot in a viewer's brain, and Air is absolutely aiming for that target. A movie in which the entire audience most likely already knows the specific outcome of an event or story, but are extremely unlikely to know the details of how it all turned out that way.
Movies such as The Social Network (we all know Facebook is now massive, but we might not have known it involved fucking over a pair of rich twins) and Moneyball (Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill use maths to do baseball better). Director Ben Affleck has already given us a perfect example of this type of movie too, with Argo, a brilliantly entertaining thriller involving a fake Hollywood production saving real-life hostages.
He's back directing in the genre for Air, and also taking on the role of Phil Knight, the co-founder and CEO of Nike. He has tasked talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) in finding three NBA players for Nike's basketball division to sign on and sponsor. Instead, Sonny wants to sign one and only one player: Michael Jordan.
Today, we all know that things worked out pretty well for Nike and for Michael Jordan in this partnership, but Air tells the story of this huge business and its untested-signing as the underdogs, revealing to the audience some huge nuggets of likely-previously-unknown information along the way.
We chatted to Affleck in the run-up to the release of Air, as well as Chris Tucker - who plays Howard White, one of the head honchos in Nike's basketball division at the time - and posed him the question of the appeal of movies that folks already know the ending to. Affleck told us:
"It is interesting, for the first time when you said that, I was thinking to myself 'Yeah, I remember people said that to me about Argo', and why isn't that something that's more present in my mind? But the truth is you kind of know how all movies end. There are tragedies and comedies and most movies have a resolution that is satisfying.
"Most movies you can expect to operate under the basic, fundamental dramatic storytelling tropes. The thing is, to make it good, you still have to surprise the audience. You still have to engage them, and they have to connect with the performances and they have to find what the people are saying to be interesting or funny or moving or relevant.
"That is always the challenge, because they're not really interested in seeing the end for the end's sake. They're seeing the end for the characters that they've invested in finding a resolution."
We also chatted to Chris Messina (who portrays Jordan's agent Peter Faulk) and Jason Bateman (who plays Sonny's working partner Rob Strasser) about the movie, and you can check out that interview in full right here:
The movie also stars Viola Davis as Jordan's mother Deloris, and Marlon Wayans as George Raveling, former basketball couch turned Nike's global sports marketing director. With this cast and this director and this story, while it is VERY early in the day, you can probably expect it to do similarly to Le Mans '66 (or Ford v Ferrari, depending on where you are in the world). By which we mean it will be a low-key box office smash and end up with a glut of Oscar nominations next year.
And not just because people like the comfort of a story they already know the ending to, but because audiences love a great story told really, really well.
Air arrives in Irish cinemas on Wednesday, 5 April.
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