The Way Back (aKa Finding the Way Back in some markets) is a 2020 sports drama film produced & directed by Gavin O’Connor (Miracle, Warrior, The Accountant, & Pride and Glory). It was produced & written by Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace, Run All Night, American Woman, & The Dynamiter). It was produced by Jason Cloth (Gretel & Hansel , Joker, Child’s Play, & Bombshell), Gordon Gray (The Rookie, Miracle, Million Dollar Arm, & Invincible), & Jennifer Todd (Austin Powers trilogy, Idle Hands, Memento, & Jason Bourne). It had an estimated budget of $25 million & it grossed $14 million at the box office worldwide.
Jack Cunningham (played by: Ben Affleck from Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Town, & Smokin’ Aces) is an alcoholic construction worker who is separated from his wife Angela (played by: Janina Gavankar from Sleepy Hollow, The Gates, & Barbershop 1/2). While at Thanksgiving dinner with his mother, his sister Beth (played by: Michaela Watkins from The Unicorn, Get Shorty, & Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp) & others, Beth reveals that friends including Angela have expressed concern about his drinking plus isolation from everyone else. The next day, Jack receives a call from Father Devine (played by: John Aylward from E.R., Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Armageddon, & The Crazies) at his Catholic high school Bishop Hayes. It’s where he was a star basketball player & led the team to multiple championships. Father Devine asks him to step in as the school’s basketball coach since the current coach has suffered a heart attack. Jack is initially reluctant but accepts the job. Jack is introduced to assistant coach & algebra teacher Dan (played by: Al Madrigal from Gary Unmarried, About a Boy, & Night School) with members of the team. Bishop Hayes has only won one game & has not gone to the playoffs since Jack was a student. The team only has six varsity players. Among these players are Brandon (played by: Brandon Wilson from Ray Donovan & Set Apart) & Marcus (played by: Melvin Gregg from Snowfall, Freakish, & American Vandal). Jack benches Marcus & uses strong language during their games. He demands the team play with more toughness. He forms a bond with student & star player Brandon. He takes him under his wing, he teaches him how to be a leader & stand up for himself. He changes the whole team & they start to play together as a team finally. They start to care about the game more than ever. They actually make the playoffs after all these years. Jack is still drinking but slowing down due to his dedication to coaching. He finds out his ex-wife is dating again & starts to think about the son they lost to cancer. It brings him back to his alcoholic ways which cost him his coaching job. He has nothing left at this point & things start to get worse. He gets beyond wasted & ends up crashing his vehicle. Be runs away & goes inside the wrong apartment. He is charged with both crimes & ends up in the hospital. He realizes that he needs to change his life before it’s too late. He goes to the game to watch the team he made better & care about basketball!!!!
The Way Back is about a man trying to get his together through sports. Jack Cunningham lost everything & he was drowning his sorrows in alcohol every night. He gets an opportunity to coach his old school & it gives him something to live for after all this pain. The Way Back is more than your typical sports movie & it doesn’t hold back. It’s not all happy & motivational at times which is refreshing because that’s real life. The script was great & it reached everything for this main character. He went through so many changes & worked hard to achieve his goals. Ben Affleck is one of those actors that people either love or hate it seems. I’ve personally always enjoyed his work & he has worked his ass off to become a better actor over the years. I’ve noticed his improvements which each project. I think the fact that he is a director now really helps with that & he made him step up his game as a performer. This might be the hardest role that he’s ever done because he’s been through it. Affleck is an alcoholic & he has struggled with it for years now causing all kinds of problems with either his career or life. So this one was very personal to him & he delivered a top notch performance in The Way Back. He is the reason to watch this feature, he carries the production on his shoulders. A comeback story is always nice & seeing the under-dogs come together as a team to win is motivational. It came at when all this COVID stuff started so it didn’t do great at the box office. I am hoping it gets a new life on home video because it does deserve more attention, RECOMMENDED!!!!
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation from Warner Bros! This 1080p (2.39:1) transfer looks good on blu ray especially the basketball scenes. It’s loaded with a variety of different languages for audio which includes English: Dolby Atmos, English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English: Dolby Digital 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1, & Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1 on the release. It sounds good but it’s not the type of film that’s going to blow your speakers away. All the dialogue is very clean, the basketball scenes have a nice boost to them, & the music is elevated here. It also has English SDH, French, Portuguese, & Spanish subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features from Warner Bros! “The Way Back: This Sporting Life” is a little over 5 minutes. It has interviews with director Gavin O’Connor, lead actor Ben Affleck, the young cast, & various members of the crew. They chat about the film, concept, & story. They talk about Jack being more than a coach. They go over basketball & turning a team with nothing into something. “Every Loss Is Another Fight: The Road to Redemption” is a little over 5 minutes. It has interviews with director Gavin O’Connor, lead actor Ben Affleck & various members of the crew. They chat about this story not being all clean & happy. They talk about the struggles the main character goes through. Ben Affleck says being an alcoholic made he know exactly what Jack was dealing with. They bring up that he really changed his life & got motivated by coaching these young men, It also comes with a slipcover & a digital code. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!