Air (2023), written by Alex Convery, has done quite well in theatres. Let’s jump right into the analysis.
Like The Internship (2013), this script essentially serves as a 105-page advertisement for the grit and tenacity of Nike. It has the whole underdog story going on, as a Nike employee in 1984, Sonny, has to compete with the better-funded Adidas and Converse.
What the plot follows is closing a deal. Whatever the protagonist’s title is on paper, his actual job is being a salesman and the client he is trying to win over is Michael Jordan. The product is the Air Jordan 1.
The best part of the script is the dialogue. I’ll get to why that is below.
Making a sale? A big deal. Signing Michael Jordan? A huge deal. Having the vision to see that MJ will create what-I-assume is the top sneaker in the US? Epic.
The script really doesn’t have much to do with sports. It’s more about fighting, as an underdog, to make a deal. The American Dream.
Sonny is the salesman. Even though he is portrayed as having to fight his way through the bureaucracy at a struggling company, it’s pretty obvious he gets whatever he needs, in this case the $250,000 to sign Jordan.
Strasser works with Sonny and offers a more rational guy to bounce ideas off of. Of course, Sonny never takes Strasser’s advice, or at least admits that he does. Strasser makes Sonny appear more nutty, but adds to the conflict and allows for Sonny to explain his reasoning. In other words, a good opportunity for exposition without being too direct.
Phil Knight is the head honcho. Here’s my favorite ridiculous line of his:
(To Sonny) Stop seeking attention for yourself. Self is the enemy. The self does not exist. Self is a mirage, a fever dream. To truly know the self is to forget the self.
Wait a minute, didn’t Phil Knight start his own invitational basketball tournament? How many other living people have their name stapled to a
bball any sports tournament?
Dialogue & Pacing
Dialogue is where this script comes alive. I marked down a bunch of places where it worked well. Here’s one:
Just got a cold.
Sounds like a nasty one.
Thank you, Doctor. Any recommendations?
Why does Michael want adidas?
It’s this witty Sorkin-like back-n-forth that works really well. It’s a textbook example of characters having two separate conversations with each other but coming together to form a fast-paced dialogue.
If you’re a salesman, like myself, you can empathize with the position of Sonny. But it’s hard to connect beyond that. We are missing a true villain. Phil Knight is team Sonny. Converse and Adidas, who could be villains, are completely normal. In fact, Adidas, while disorganized, recently lost their founder, so in reality it’s easy to emphasize with them.
There is at least one monologue where Sonny explains why he cares so much about Nike, and it essentially comes down to the desire to win. And there’s another good scene where he pitches to MJ, which is definitely impactful if you grew up during the latter’s dominance on the court. But, I wouldn’t say any of those scenes are truly meaningful.
There are a few side narratives that are used comedically, such as Knight’s love of running or Sonny scarfing down ice cream, which I feel could have been used to explore values closer to the main characters.
Points of Interest
The intercut scenes when Sonny is pitching MJ and the videos from MJ’s career – I hope that made it in the film. Time to go watch it.
The actual closing of the MJ deal is anticlimactic, although as sales have taught me, the actual signing the paperwork often is. It’s truly the days, hours, and minutes leading up to it (which we see in this script) where the full range of emotions are experienced.