the way back
DIRECTOR: gavin o'connor (warrior, the accountant)
STARRING: ben affleck, Al Madrigal, brandon wilson and Janina Gavankar
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A former basketball struggling with addiction attempts to comeback by becoming the coach of a disparate, ethnically mixed high school basketball team at his alma mater.
I love a good sports movie. I also love a good Ben Affleck movie. Some really love to hate on Affleck, but over the last decade he has directed two phenomenal films (Argo and The Town) and gave a great performance as Batman (following in the shoes of Bale - what a task) and starred in the highly entertaining Triple Frontier and The Accountant. Affleck has teamed up again with the director of The Accountant, Gavin O’Connor, for The Way Back. And boy oh boy. This is a sports movie and an Affleck movie like no other.
Back in high school, Jack Cunningham had everything going for him. A basketball phenom, he could have punched his ticket to college or even the pros, but, instead, he chose to walk away from the game, forfeiting his future. Jack's glory days are long gone...but, as it turns out, not forgotten. Years later, he gets the chance to take back his life when he is asked to coach the struggling basketball team at his alma mater. Jack reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself, and as the boys start to come together as a team and win, he may get his last shot at redemption.
As the film progresses it ticks all of the sports film cliche boxes. Coach and or players looking for redemption. Tick. Coach overcoming personal demons because of the higher purpose they have found in coaching. Tick. And just when you think it's going to fall into the sappy, emotional cliched third act The Way Back pivots and heads off in a completely new and brave direction.
Ultimately The Way Back is about dealing with your demons, especially as a man. Statistics the world over show that men have a high rate of mental health coupled with a high rate of just not talking about their ‘stuff’. This film could just be the catalyst needed for some guys to start talking to their mates. I’m going to grab a group of mates together to go see it. As well as being a really entertaining, heartfelt film it transcends that. It's that important.
Affleck has found the way back into the acting world too with this film. He is absolutely magnificent in this giving a measured, restrained and highly emotive performance. He completely knocks it out of the park.
The Way Back is one of those rare films that even though highly entertaining, is bigger than just being a movie. Hopefully this film will get guys talking about their 'stuff’. Affleck knocks it out of the park in one of 2020’s best films yet.