Talented former high school basketball player turned alcoholic (Ben Affleck) gets a chance at redemption when the opportunity to coach the underperforming team he once played for presents itself. This inspirational sports drama is very Ben Affleck-centred, yet he rises to the challenge, to deliver one of his best performances yet.
This is director Gavin O’Connor’s second collaboration with Affleck, the first being the well-known film The Accountant. The Way Back follows the tried and tested, traditional inspirational sports drama formula; a coach with some serious personal issues coaches an underdog team who aren’t cohesive, on or off the court.
For the first two-thirds of the film you think O’Connor is following the formula to a T – yet toward the end, he takes the film in a different direction, leaving you wondering what will happen next; steering away from the big game finale ending. It’s always good when directors avoid what the audience is expecting, and O’Connor does that well.
The downside to the film is that you don’t get to know the team as well as you would like. Even though the directing choices, and the acting by Affleck, make the film worth watching, it would have been better if they had spent more time developing the individual stories of the players so that the audience got to know them on a deeper level.
It’s easy to like an underdog story, and if you’re a fan of basketball or sports films in general then this is worth adding to your must-watch list.