Dir; Gavin O’Connor. Starring; Ben Affleck, Al Madrigral, Janina Gavankar. Color. R. 182 Minutes.
Sometimes you root for the underdog. Other times you root for the Cinderella at the dance who belongs there. “The Way Back”, directed by Gavin O’conner, is a combination of both situations. The beginning and middle are not simple by the numbers sports movie stuff. The end is not your predictable happy rah-rah affair either.
Ben Affleck plays Jack Cunningham, a former phenom high school basketball player who walked away from the game despite having his pick of playing at collegiate universities. He stopped competing for reasons far deeper than what was happening on the court.
In the modern day, Jack is a construction worker and hardcore, I mean hardcore, alcoholic. He is separated from his wife as they both are dealing with the tragic loss of their son in different ways. Seemingly hopeless, Jack gets a whole new beginning out of nowhere. His Alma Mater Catholic school calls him up as he is still a legend there. The head priest offers him a job to coach a basketball team that has failed to achieve a winning season since he left years ago. With nothing to lose, Jack stays sober enough, and I emphasize ‘enough’, to coach the team of misfits to its first playoff birth in years.
While several conventional moments of inspirational sports movie stuff occurs, “The Way Back” does not keep things P.C. or shy away from complex topics. Coach Cunningham is an alcoholic mess which the other teachers can pick up on. He also drives and pushes the ballers in a humanistic way every practice that turns into results. Coach’s dear friend has a medical emergency with his child hospitalized that is reminiscent of what he went through, forcing him to go on a bender right before the playoffs.
At the end of the day, the players do not simply learn from their leader on the sidelines. He learns from them. It is not just fighting being an alcoholic. Dressing like a coach and controlling his mouth during a game slowly-but-surely rubs off on the kids and their own individual problems. “The Way Back” is about growth, not a simple solution that lesser inspirational sports movies fall into. We are all imperfect, but convincing the shy point guard who is your best player to eventually become team captain is an accomplishment anyone could be proud of. That is the true definition of winning.
Suck Factor: 2out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!