The Way Back

Critics Consensus

The Way Back's occasionally frustrating treatment of a formulaic story is often outweighed by Ben Affleck's outstanding work in the central role.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 170

84%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 2,688

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Movie Info

Back in high school, Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) 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.

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Critic Reviews for The Way Back

All Critics (170) | Top Critics (28) | Fresh (143) | Rotten (27)

  • It's a solid effort. There are guts here, just not quite enough glory.

    March 11, 2020 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • The force of Ben Affleck's perpetually anguished glower suggests depths that this redemption-through-sports drama doesn't reach.

    March 9, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Affleck is a superstar who carries darkness and sadness in his shoulders and in his eyes - his Batman was particularly joyless - which makes "The Way Back" an ideal role for him.

    March 7, 2020 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Surprisingly solid and not at all mawkish or maudlin as it might look from the outset. This is probably the best work of Ben Affleck's career.

    March 7, 2020 | Full Review…
  • Despite those momentum-stalling and unnecessary detours, the irresistibly cheer-worthy basketball sequences and Affleck's resonant and authentic performance are more than enough to carry the day.

    March 6, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Despite narrative issues, the film is overall affecting and effective with Ben Affleck's powerful performance being a driving force.

    March 6, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Way Back

  • May 03, 2020
    Cliche personal redemption-through-sports outing given legs by Ben Affleck's haunting performance of a guy dragged-through-the-mud, a guy just about at the end of his tether, which is the main attraction to the tale. This guy has punching power, no doubt.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 25, 2020
    When it comes to dramas about someone recovering from a personal event or issue, it really comes down to how well it's made. These days, everything has been done in terms of recovery stories, but that can be said about every genre I guess. The Way Back is the latest addiction drama to hit the big screen but is now immediately available for purchase at home. This film may hit too close to home for some, so I will recommend this movie with a large asterisk of caution, but here's why I think it's a great film nonetheless. The Way Back deserves to be seen in my opinion.  After separating from his wife and turning to alcohol in a life-threatening way, Jack Cunningham is given a chance to prove himself and clean up his act when he's offered the opportunity to coach a high school basketball team. Having been a player himself, he knows the ins and outs of the game, which will, in turn, make him a great mentor, albeit strict. Of course, with movies like this, it's not all sunshine and rainbows and his past comes back to haunt him, which reveals much more about this character's past. It can be slightly melodramatic at times, but those aspects are still very well-done and may even be a little much for someone if they are able to relate. A movie like this truly needs a powerful central performance or it simply won't work. Ben Affleck, who went through a divorce and had alcohol issues in real-life, portrays Jack, and I believe it's one of his best performances, maybe ever. Much like Lady Gaga in A Star is Born, your best performances come from something you can relate to. If the Oscars were being held today, I wouldn't have any hesitation giving the best actor award to Affleck. His sincerity and pain on his face throughout the entire duration of the film hit me really hard. The best performances come from the heart, and this film absolutely showcased that.  Now, I didn't think The Way Back was perfect, because by the time it reaches its second and third acts, you kind of know what to expect, but there are elements of how everything plays out that kept it from being too predictable. If for nothing else, it's incredibly effective in terms of emotion. What I did feel could've used a little more depth was within the team itself. There was one great character on the team, but the rest felt like stereotypical teenagers that were there so that the focus wouldn't be taken off Ben Affleck. That's fine because the point of the movie definitely isn't the team, but for the amount of screentime they get, there could've been a little more detail to their characters.  Overall, The Way Back is one of the better movies that I've seen so far in 2020, even though there isn't much to watch at the moment. As I said, it may hit too close to home for some, but I would ruin a few moments in the movie if I got into them. I'll just say, even though there are elements of happiness and hope, this is a very sad film about someone trying to find themselves after being lost for so long. Even though the movie felt familiar as a whole which will keep me from giving it a perfect score, I thought it was very well-directed by Gavin O'Connor and Ben Affleck sucked me in from start to finish. Even though it probably won't be an easy watch for some, I absolutely recommend it.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Mar 07, 2020
    Not to be confused with 2013's The Way Way Back, or 2010's The Way Back about Gulag survivors, this movie entitled The Way Back is about Ben Affleck as an alcoholic basketball coach, and it's thoroughly fine. We follow Jack (Affleck) as he tries to get his life back on track following the death of a child and the end of his marriage. His alma mater needs a new coach and the former high school basketball star might have found a job that could lead him to be a better version of himself. There's nothing inherently bad in director Gavin O'Connor's drama. The acting is pretty good, the docu-drama style gives it a credible sense of realism, and the movie doesn't downplay the destructive pull of addiction. The problem is that it never feels like it goes deep enough in any aspect. I feel like I just watched a by-the-numbers sports drama attached to a by-the-numbers addiction drama. I kept waiting for more insights with the characters, but the story kept falling back on "dead child" as the explanation for everything. I kept waiting for the characters to distinguish themselves with personalities, but the team to the assistant coaches to Jack's own ex-wife (Janina Gavankar) are left underdeveloped and more as stand-ins for approving or disapproving figures. There's plenty of dramatic potential here and it feels like The Way Back doesn't have the courage or nuance to keep going. I was thinking back to McFarland U.S.A. and how great that movie opened up its world, its community, its culture, getting to know the different characters and their needs, pressures, and hopes. I was absorbed by that movie and with The Way Back I was left mostly unmoved. Affleck (Justice League) is delivering a good performance that touches upon his own challenges with alcohol. He's the reason to see the movie, but there isn't much else to warrant your attention. It's competently made and refrains from getting mawkish, which is something considering how easy it would given the susceptible subject matter. I was just left relatively unmoved because I was kept from emotionally connecting with these people and getting to know and care about their lives from its story. It's no The Accountant. Nate's Grade: C+
    Nate Z Super Reviewer

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