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“THE WAY BACK” A Fight for Life

 

 

 

Review by John Delia

Taking it to the net, Ben Affleck gives his all for the camera as a man who has hit bottom. It’s a performance that brings out the serious side of a character and not anything like his superhero turns in the barrel. But, it’s what the doctor ordered as its classic Affleck and a joy to watch. If you want to see a comeback to cheer for, it’s Ben Affleck in The Way Back.

Down in the dumps for initial reasons unknown except that his wife has left him in a trial separation, ex high school basketball great Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) needs something to lift him out of a death spiral induced by alcohol abuse. It comes with an offer from his old high school that needs a coach that crapped out in the middle of a losing season. Taking over the team after some pressure from the padre of the parochial school, he starts to wonder what he got himself into. With the help of his assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal) and the padre on the bench, he tries to keep from cursing at the refs and drinking on the job. It’s those supporters and the desire to bounce back that are the catalyst that draws the man out of the mouse he had become.

Director and co-writer Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) takes a chance on Affleck’s performance to give him another winner and he succeeds. Making things look authentic and guiding his support characters around Affleck’s role, he brings a lot of excitement and pathos to the film. It’s a gamble that pays off in many ways, for the film and the actor who needed a comeback chance. It also doesn’t hurt that some of the actors that play the high school basketballers make things look real by putting some good moves on their opponents in the games.

Performances by Janina Gavankar as his wife Angela who finds herself at a loss as Jack keeps distancing himself from her and his mother. Trying to draw him back into his family, she finds the going tough. As his assistant coach Dan, Al Madrigal tries to keep Jack in check and not lose control while coaching court side as they keep winning games. When Jack gets out of hand, Dan has to make a tough choice that will awaken Jack like never before.

Ben Affleck as Jack Cunningham in The Way Back from Warner Bros.

Ben Affleck worked on the film right after coming out of rehab and it looks like he used that to create his character. It may have been part of his recovery, but much like Joaquin Phoenix, rising back up takes a lot of guts, especially when it comes to putting yourself in front of a public that will be your judge and jury.

The Way Back has been rated R by the MPAA for language throughout including some sexual references.

FINAL ANALYIS: A nice comeback for the filmmaker, audiences and an Icon. (4 out of 5 Stars) 

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Janina Gavankar, Brandon Wilson, Will Ropp, Charles Lott Jr., Melvin Gregg, T.K. Carter, Fernando Luis Vega, Hayes MacArthur, Da’Vinchi, Rachael Carpani, Todd Stashwick,
Directed and co-written by: Gavin O’Connor
Genre: Drama, Sport
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout including some sexual references
Running Time: 1 hr. 48 min.
Opening Date: March 6, 2020
Distributed by: Warner Bros.
Released in: Theaters, check your local listings for a theater near you

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