Sports in Film: Looking at Ben Affleck’s new basketball film, The Way Back.

It wasn’t so long-ago Ben Affleck hit rock bottom for the second time. The Academy Award-winning actor/director went through his second alcohol relapse. He lost his role as Batman in the DCEU in a very public fallout, and more importantly, he lost his marriage. About two years later, Affleck bravely takes on the role of an alcoholic construction worker who is given a chance at redemption coaching his former high school basketball team.

This easily could have been another cliché sports comeback movie, but what makes The Way Back different is just how personal the subject matter is to its lead. The opening scene alone tugs at your heartstrings as Affleck’s character leads such a mundane and sad life, sneaking his alcohol around in a soda cup you’d get at the mall before making his nightly trip to the bar.

Richard Foreman | Affleck (left) portrays a basketball coach in this film about basketball and the hardships of life.

The reason you watch this film is Ben Affleck. Going back to his Good Will Hunting days or the horrid Daredevil-era he has always brought an energy and likability that makes him hard to root against. Knowing the fact that the film’s story is obviously very personal to Affleck will attach you even further to his character in the film. As the film progresses, you begin to understand why Affleck’s character is grieving and in denial.

Sport scenes are always hit-or-miss due to the spontaneity of sports. It’s hard to make basketball plays look natural without it being a dance number of sorts, but The Way Back features games that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The crowds are loud and pumped up to the max, creating the atmosphere of an important playoff game.

Just because The Way Back is a comeback story, it doesn’t take the easy way out. It gives characters a happy ending but not in the way you may think. Ben Affleck’s character isn’t magically fixed by the end; it’s proof that we still have to work on our flaws if we hope to better ourselves.

I’m glad that Ben Affleck has come to a point where he can face his demons. Losing jobs such as being Batman had to be tough, especially when you consider how public his whole situation was, but that allows him to do more intimate films such as The Way Back. It’s by far his best acting showcase and one of his best films. He deserves major awards recognition, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit right as the film opened so it became lost in the group of films that were thrown onto V.O.D when the lockdowns started. The Way Back is available on HBO Max right now, and I cannot recommend this film enough to anyone who needs inspiration.

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