Movie Review: The Way Back, Starring; Ben Affleck
The Way Back, Ben Affleck’s new film, is without a doubt, the best work he’s ever done.
Affleck’s new film in a lot of ways is more than just a movie. It’s a comeback of one of Hollywood’s most polarizing actors. It’s also not flashy, like Batman or Argo. Affleck has never been rawer in a film and that’s why he’s at his best playing an alcoholic basketball coach. In fact, Affleck’s real life struggles with alcoholism have been noted publicly. He undoubtedly drew from those struggles in the new film.
The Way Back is also the fourth film from director Gavin O’Connor. O’Connor has directed three brilliant films in Miracle, The Accountant, also starring Affleck, and one of the films that is in my top 10 of all-time favorites, Warrior. Much like O’Connor’s previous three films, The Way Back will make you laugh and cry. It’s entertaining and it’s real-life. Affleck’s character, Jack Cunningham, could easily be anyone walking the streets today. In fact, most of us probably know someone who has dealt with the hardships that Cunningham faces in the film.
Don’t go into The Way Back thinking it’s another Coach Carter, because it’s far from that. It leaves the sports cliché’s at the door. While basketball and Cunningham’s relationship with the team is part of the film, this is Affleck’s film and he owns the screen. Watching him destroy himself with each drink is nothing short of heartbreaking. Affleck isn’t saving the planet to some sappy Aerosmith song in this film, he’s not playing Santa Claus trying to rob a casino or even working to free hostages. He’s a normal, hard-working, troubled guy. He is struggling with his inner demons. Affleck shows just how much alcoholism and the tragedies of life can tear us down, but he also shows how human beings can pick themselves up and fight their way back. In a way, The Way Back not only resembles Affleck’s personal life, but also his movie career. His performance is so good, it should garner him his first Oscar nod for acting.
The Way Back is one of those films that is not going to blow you away with explosions or over the top action stunts. It’s a drama at its core. It’s real life at its core. At its core, it’s Affleck’s greatest role of his career.