Gavin O'Connor directed one of the most underrated sports dramas of the past decade with 2011's Warrior, and now he's returning to the genre and reuniting with his The Accountant star Ben Affleck for The Way Back. It's the type of film Hollywood doesn't often make these days: Affleck plays a high school basketball coach who's struggling with some inner demons and hopes to find redemption on the sidelines.
The Way Back uses a well-tested formula — see also: The Mighty Ducks —but even if you know every beat of how it's going to play out, there's something special about a resonant, personal, character-driven sports drama. Anyone who saw Warrior, a MMA movie that works beautifully even for people who don't care at all about MMA, knows how skilled O'Connor is at exploring characters with complicated pasts and relationships through the inherent drama of sports. He also directed the family-friendly ice hockey film Miracle. And maybe this one won't be quite as predictable, because there's always the chance that he has a Friday Night Lights-style surprising ending in store for us.
This is an excellent trailer, with its rousing music and emotional speeches all pointing toward a moving, inspiring story about loss, hope, second chances, and unlikely success. In short, it's manipulative — but in the best possible way. Here's hoping the movie itself ends up being just as good.
Jack CunninghamBen Affleck once had a life filled with promise. In high school, he was a basketball phenom with a full university scholarship, when suddenly, for reasons unknown, he walked away from the game, forfeiting his future. Now years later, Jack is spiraling down, triggered by an unspeakable loss, and drowning in the alcoholism that cost him his marriage and any hope for a better life. When he is asked to coach the basketball team at his alma mater, which has fallen far since his glory days, he reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself. As the boys start to come together as a team and win, Jack may have finally found a reason to confront the demons that have derailed him. But will it be enough to fill the void, heal the deep wounds of his past, and set him on the road to redemption?
The Way Back dribbles its way into theaters on March 6, 2020.