'The Way Back' Review With Casey
Ben Affleck (Gone Girl, 2014) is evidently not afraid to embrace a difficult leading role in this plaintive drama directed by Gavin O'Connor (The Accountant, 2016). Ben Affleck's movie star power was almost lost forever in the mess of the DC Comic films Justice League (2017) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). But The Way Back has shown us he can still offer good performances. Affleck plays a lonely aching man who begrudgingly accepts an offer to coach basketball in his former high school in southern California to help the immature players improve their game.
We've all seen high school underdog basketball movies before like Glory Road (2006), Coach Carter (2005), Above the Rim (1994), and the biggest classic of all Hoosiers (1986). But The Way Back is thankfully not just about basketball. It's also about redemption, forgiveness, and letting go of the past as a broken man struggles through alcoholism and grief to put his life back together and find meaning. That storyline is what makes this film interesting. The Way Back is touching and somber mostly because its screenplay and its actors don't try too hard to hammer their feelings into the audience. Everything felt natural and honest which will help viewers find it more relatable.
Director Gavin O'Connor is so well known for films that magnify the machismo of manly lives from hockey players (Miracle, 2004) to police detectives (Pride and Glory, 2008) to martial arts fighters (Warriors, 2011) to spies and assassins (The Accountant, 2016). It's a pleasant surprise to see him direct something different that is so unexpectedly intimate and emotional (but still maintaining a quiet masculinity). You may not feel like you're winning at life, but you have a chance to win on the court....and at least that's something.