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The Way Back (2020)

R | | Drama, Sport | 6 March 2020 (USA)
Trailer
2:15 | Trailer
Jack Cunningham was an HS basketball phenom who walked away from the game, forfeiting his future. Years later, when he reluctantly accepts a coaching job at his alma mater, he may get one last shot at redemption.

Director:

Gavin O'Connor

Writer:

Brad Ingelsby
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Popularity
20 ( 48)
6 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben Affleck ... Jack
Al Madrigal ... Dan
Janina Gavankar ... Angela
Michaela Watkins ... Beth
Brandon Wilson ... Brandon Durrett
Will Ropp ... Kenny Dawes
Fernando Luis Vega ... Sam Garcia
Charles Lott Jr. Charles Lott Jr. ... Chubbs Hendricks
Melvin Gregg ... Marcus Parrish
Ben Irving ... Bobby Freeze
Jeremy Radin ... Father Mark Whelan
John Aylward ... Father Edward Devine
Da'Vinchi ... Devon Childress
Matthew Glave ... Coach Lombardo
Nico David ... Ryan

How 'The Way Back' Reignited Ben Affleck's Passion

Ben Affleck, Janina Gavankar, and director Gavin O'Connor discuss the emotional but powerful filming of The Way Back and how it reconnected Affleck with his love of acting.

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Storyline

Back in high school, Jack Cunningham had everything going for him. A basketball phenom, he could have punched his ticket to college or even the pros, but, instead, he chose to walk away from the game, forfeiting his future. Jack's glory days are long gone...but, as it turns out, not forgotten. Years later, he gets the chance to take back his life when he is asked to coach the struggling basketball team at his alma mater. Jack reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself, and as the boys start to come together as a team and win, he may get his last shot at redemption. Written by Warner Bros

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Every loss is another fight.

Genres:

Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language throughout including some sexual references | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie's original title was The Has-Been. See more »

Quotes

Jack Cunningham: You want to know why they're leaving you open? It's because they don't think you can hit the ocean from the beach.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Tucker Carlson Tonight: Episode dated 20 March 2020 (2020) See more »

Soundtracks

Down and Out Blues
Written by Ricky Sanders Lewis
Performed by Ricky Lewis Band
Courtesy of Bizgit Records
See more »

User Reviews

 
Affleck in his element
5 March 2020 | by ferguson-6See all my reviews

Greetings again from the darkness. So much beer and booze. It would be easy to classify this latest from writer-director Gavin O'Connor as a sports movie. After all, he has given us two excellent ones in MIRACLE (2004) and WARRIOR (2011). However, as with those two films, there is much more going on here. This is about grief and addiction, and the difficulties in mending a life in tatters.

Jack Cunningham likes his morning shower. It helps get him prepare for a day of construction work and get over a late night of drinking. What's unusual about his morning routine is that he drinks a beer while taking his morning shower, and then fills his Yeti with gin as he takes his post at the building site. Jack is played by Ben Affleck, who has returned to the screen with a serious acting gig after his fling as Batman. Of course, anyone who even casually keeps up with Hollywood gossip knows Mr. Affleck and his character here have in common a drinking problem. In fact, the actor filmed this immediately after his latest rehab stint. It's quite possible that the collision of real life and fiction explain why this is Affleck's best performance in many years (at least since HOLLYWOODLAND in 2006). He re-teams here O'Connor, who directed him in THE ACCOUNTANT (2016).

Jack is a former high school basketball star whose life has turned out much differently than expected. His construction job is beating him down, alcohol abuse is slowly destroying him, and he recently split with his wife Angela (Janina Gavankar) after a tragedy. Has he hit rock bottom? It's likely he thinks so. As happens so often in life, an opportunity presents itself. The head Priest at his former catholic high school asks him to step in as basketball coach after the current coach has a heart attack. The team is terrible, and has been that way since Jack graduated 25 years ago. After a painful-to-watch evening of decision-making, Jack accepts the job.

As you would expect, it's a team of misfits who have little concept of teamwork. Affleck excels as a coach who evaluates the talent he has and devises a strategy to not only improve individual player performance, but also inject the philosophies of teamwork and cohesion and commitment. He does this with the help of Algebra teacher slash Assistant Coach Dan (Al Madrigal, "I'm Dying Up Here"), who appreciates what Jack brings to the position, but is also protective of the boys and the school mission.

Jack manages to stay sober while coaching, but we see how fine that line is for an addict. Life suddenly rears up and plops an emotional situation that is simply too much form him to handle. It's here when we realize that while it appeared coaching the team gave Jack a glimmer of hope for a better life, it also allowed him to ignore the personal issues and relationships that had driven him to the bottle. The basketball scenes are the most fun to watch, but it's the realistic life elements that elevate the story. It's excruciating to watch Jack re-telling glory days stories to his 'buddies' at the local neighborhood bar, only to be helped home by the same old man who used to carry his father home from the same bar. The perpetuation of misery is a story that is all too relatable for many.

Jack's good qualities are evident when he's prodding ultra-quiet point guard Brandon (Brandon Wilson) into taking on a leadership role and thinking of his future, but that's contrasted with his inconsiderate treatment of his sister Beth (Michaela Watkins) and Father Mark (Jeremy Radin), the team/school Chaplain. It's the two sides of Jack that so clearly resonate with those who have experienced addiction. This is a guy who botched his college/basketball opportunity, but managed to build a new life, only to have it snatched away in the cruelest way possible. It's imperative that he come to grips with all of that in some place other than the bottom of a beer mug.

The outstanding screenplay comes from Brad Ingelsby (OUT OF THE FURNACE, 2013), and with director O'Connor and the cast, the film has a throwback to the 70's feel ... gritty and realistic. This is not the smirking, strutting stud we are accustomed to seeing with Affleck. He seems immersed in the role and brings an understanding to the struggles, the rehab, and the importance of a support system. Redemption played a huge part in the classic HOOSIERS (1986) and most every other rag-tag sports team in movies, and THE WAY BACK shows us there really is no going back ... instead, we must deal with life in order to move on.


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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

6 March 2020 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Has-Been See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,170,315, 8 March 2020

Gross USA:

$13,590,514

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$14,690,514
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Atmos

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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