FILM REVIEW | The Way Back

Who doesn't love a good sports movie?

They generally follow a formula, feature great training montages and are filled with inspirational quotes.

Director Gavin O'Connor delivered one of the best sports movies in recent years with Warrior, and now he's back with a new story in The Way Back.

And while the new film does follow a basketball coach and his unsuccessful team, it's not really a sports film in the traditional sense.

Rather, it's a personal drama following Ben Affleck's character Jack Cunningham.

Jack was a high school basketball prodigy, a shining light in the sport, but personal demons got in his way and prevented him from capitalising on his skill.

The movie picks up with Jack in a sorry state of affairs. He spends his days drinking, isolating himself from others and has little to look forward to in life.

In the zone: Ben Affleck delivers one of his best acting performances as high school basketball coach Jack Cunningham in The Way Back, rated M, in cinemas now.

In the zone: Ben Affleck delivers one of his best acting performances as high school basketball coach Jack Cunningham in The Way Back, rated M, in cinemas now.

But an unexpected job offer from the priest at his former Catholic school to come back and coach the failing squad picks him up from the bottom of the bottle and gives his life new meaning.

The Way Back is easily one of Affleck's best acting performances.

While the Oscar-winner has always excelled behind the camera - writing Good Will Hunting and directing the likes of The Town and Argo - his performances in front of it have rarely drawn great praise.

But Affleck excels as Cunningham.

And this is likely because the actor himself has had well-publicised struggles with alcoholism.

The Way Back is more about Cunningham's journey out of his depression than it is about the school basketball team, but the team is also important.

Each of the boys has things to work through, and Cunningham's coaching style helps them realise their own potential.

The more you learn about each character in this film, the more you love it.

O'Connor does a brilliant job of holding back certain pieces of information, revealing them slowly, for the greatest dramatic impact.

While The Way Back follows a very predictable, formulaic structure, that's not to its detriment. It's how the film manages to rise above its structure that is its true success.

Rating: 7.5/10

This story The Way Back film review | Basketball drama a winner first appeared on Wollondilly Advertiser.