“The Way Back”
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Movie Matter: 5 stars
“The Way Back” follows the story of Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck), a former high school basketball star that has fallen on hard times since his high school glory years. Jack had the opportunity to play Division 1 Basketball, and potentially go pro, but decided to walk away from the game entirely. To fill the void, Jack turns to alcohol, and his life becomes somewhat of a downward spiral toward rock bottom.
When a coaching position opens up at his former high school alma mater, Jack has the opportunity to find “the way back” to a normal life. Initially, he isn’t interested, but ends up taking the job because he really has nothing to lose. Surprisingly, Jack is a natural teacher, and although his coaching tactics are a bit unconventional, the players buy-in to his competitive mindset, and the team starts winning games.
Director Gavin O’Connor has a history of creating iconic coaching characters, having directed “Miracle” (2004), which depicted legendary coach Herb Brooks. Like Herb Brooks, Jack Cunningham takes a stern approach to coaching, which makes for some funny one-liners. Similar to movies like “Coach Carter” (2005) and “Hoosiers” (1986), this film is a true underdog story that highlights the importance of strong leadership figures in sports, and in life.
Ben Affleck was able to make a sad and relatively boring movie, interesting and inviting. For those who don’t know, Affleck suffers from alcoholism in real life, and entered rehab just before this movie began filming. My initial thought was wow, this is going to be difficult for him to relive his personal struggles on-screen, but after watching the movie, I think it might have been beneficial and/or therapeutic for the actor.
While I thought Affleck’s performance was exceptional, I don’t think it was enough to make up for the movie’s not-so-great writing (like mine), or its’ overly dramatic and depressing vibe. However, I still think it’s worth checking out for yourself! Overall, I’m giving “The Way Back” 5/10 stars!