The Way Back is a sports drama that marks the reuniting of star Ben Affleck and director Gavin O’Connor, following their 2016 action movie The Accountant. In this movie, Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a retired basketball player who takes on the role of coach for a new team. Along the way, Cunningham wrestles with alcoholism and trauma from his past.
Gavin O’Connor has been a proven filmmaker in recent years. In addition to The Accountant, he directed 2011’s stellar Warrior. Here, he returns to the sports genre. The story for The Way Back is fairly straightforward, and it has many plot elements that are found in classic underdog tales. Despite the familiar story, O’Connor’s direction keeps it interesting, along with a few twists in the script.
Also elevating The Way Back is the acting, primarily from Ben Affleck. Affleck’s career has been interesting to follow, ranging from his early days to winning the Best Picture Oscar to playing Batman. In more recent years, Affleck has had his personal struggles, specifically alcoholism and divorce. His character in The Way Back has a lot of similarities, and with life experience backing him up, Affleck gives a really strong performance. In fact, it is arguably one of his best performances yet.
The rest of the cast, ranging from Janina Gavankar to Melvin Gregg, is very solid. But overall, this is Affleck’s movie, and he carries it throughout. As for other technical aspects, the film delivers. The cinematography is solid, the score fits well, and the editing is on point.
As for flaws, it can be easy to nitpick the sports movie cliches, specifically the “underdog team rises to greatness” arc. However, The Way Back‘s execution is good enough to make them work. Also, at 108 minutes, the runtime is on the shorter side. It works, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more time with the supporting cast.
In summary, The Way Back is a very solid sports drama. Ben Affleck and Gavin O’Connor reunite to good results, elevating a familiar story to new heights. It depicts a man’s fall from grace and his efforts towards redemption, delivering a very personal story (especially for Affleck). Go see this movie, you guys.
The Way Back hits theaters March 6th, 2020.