‘The Way Back’ pulls its punches

Nicholas Solomon

“The Way Back” delivers excellent performances but falls short of spectacular.

I was hoping this was not going to be a generic crowd-pleasing sports flick. The trailers showcased a “Manchester By the Sea”-esque story of a late-40s alcoholic.

Ben Affleck can deliver excellent performances despite what the DC movies depicted – you could say he is on his way back.

As the director Gavin O’Connor discussed in interviews, this movie has drama with basketball as an aspect – it is not a basketball movie. It’s watered down from what it could have been and comes close but fails to deliver on what it could have achieved.

“The Way Back” is about Jack Cunningham (Affleck), a 40-year-old alcoholic who was a basketball prodigy in his youth.

He is recruited to coach the mediocre basketball team of a Catholic school he attended. What follows is a redemption-focused feel good story.

The movie is at its best when Affleck is on screen. He is joined by a great cast, namely Al Madrigal and criminally underused Glynn Turman.

The movie excels with Affleck and the namely background teenage characters.

The background parts aren’t written halfheartedly – they behave like real teens with issues to account for… something that is often not done properly.

I enjoyed seeing Affleck being a belligerent alcoholic and the secondhand-cringe mistakes he makes. Mistake after mistake after mistake, watching in the comfort of my home.

I found myself nearly yelling at the screen at times.

The portrayal of alcoholism in this movie feels authentic while being incredibly painful.

“The Way Back” has plenty of sports clichés that draw back from the increasing potential of the plot line. Unfortunately, the clichés create an insurmountable mountain to climb.

Edited by Wesley Tabor, Shelby Spradling