Sports movies, they take on all sorts of shapes, sizes, and budgets, as studios try to tell inspiring stories through the world of athletics. Tonight, the man of many faces and struggles, is recruited to help bring that face up to hopefully inspire millions to overcome the obstacles life throws at them. Yet, in the modern age, balancing that budget and handling the politics gets in the way of execution of the movies and with trailers being master edit pieces one can only wonder what is in store. So I’m going to do my best to give you my thoughts as I review:
Movie: The Way Back (2020)
- Inspirational Tale
- Piano Work
- Seeing Influence At Times
- Affleck’s Acting
- Disjointed Plot Elements
- The Realism at Times
- The Pacing Of the Movie
- The Other Characters
- The Lack of Movie Heart At Times
- The Masking Of A Sports Movie
Inspirational tales can be seen even in the simplest actions/speeches (just look at social media tales) and in a big screen adaptation, The Way Back accomplishes the goal. Jack’s (Affleck) story is one that many people suffer from in the form of PTSD being handled by booze, and those men and women who have to work to find the light. It’s a convincing performance that takes the realism of life and layers it thick into the film at hand with simple, direct dialogue and scenes that show that struggle. An engaging piano score in the back leads to helping add on to the struggles of someone dealing with personal struggles, not really as a major orchestra or pop hit playing, but instead simplistic pieces that dwindle in the background. The combination of these elements, alongside some grey camera filters, helps put you in the mindset of coping with trauma, and potentially finding the healthier means to get better and move from the incident. I enjoyed the results, by seeing some of the players’ lives change, subtle changes in character that gradually got better, and the potential foreshadowing it brought (again goes with the realism). Yet, the biggest like is the acting from Affleck himself. As the central, and pretty much sole focus of the movie, Affleck takes his personal struggles and gives you a very good performance. It’s not an original role, it’s not a massive role, it’s not even an Oscar role, but it’s a realistic figure that you can relate to in some form or manner. Seeing the downfall, the remorse, the suffering in his face slowly change depending on the moment is a strong display of his acting skills to make this sort of adaptation of his life. If you like realistic characters like this, who aren’t flashy or dramatically designed, you should be okay with this film.
Yet, the trailers have not done this movie justice in how they are selling it, which is going to be the core of my dislikes for this movie. It starts with the plot elements, The Way Back sort of crams a lot of life events and stories into 1.5 hours and watching this I felt it’s very rushed components. The side stories that try to integrate Affleck’s characters are not very detailed or integrated, as they help add key moments to drive Jack’s life. Unlike other movies like Hoosiers and Remember the Titans, the Way Back really drops the ball in the big picture aspect, choosing to hover around the gravity of Affleck’s character. Realistic and potentially artistic mindset of a PTSD patient aside, the realism actually took away from this movie for me at times in how it limited not only the story, but the other pieces of the film. First, the pacing. The Way Back is not the most even paced film with slow moments taking reign in between big peaks of excitement. While it is not the slowest movie for me, the consistent blandness does not make for the most entertaining film, relying on you the audience member to appreciate the realism at hand. Second is the other characters of the film. Having to do more with focusing one character than the others, the film fails to really make the other characters a worthwhile investment. It feels like the Mighty Ducks film when we are just looking at Bombay alone, rather than having the team interact with him and drive him to be better. As such, outside of some funny moments and a few grains to show what Jack’s actions sewed, the rest of the cast gets sidelined to focus on the issues at hands. Now again, this realism is important for the artistic style, but the trailers sort of promised the magical sports treatment that I do rather enjoy seeing. That’s where point three comes in is the lack of movie heart/magic that these films have come to enjoy. Think back to your favorite moments of Remember The Titans, Hoosiers, or Miracle, those goose bump raising sequences where magic, planning, and over dramatization get you into the full energy of the movie and goes the extra mile. That’s absent in this film, which was disappointing given how they could have designed some of the recovery moments with Affleck and the other characters. Yet, the lack of magic is missed the most in the sports scenes. I’m a victim of loving those overdone sequences of the good guys fighting the goliaths, with creative plays, dialogue to spur on the competitors, and the energy of being part of that fight. Instead, this movie just shows brief clips of the players doing typical drills/shooting only to stop and show the score of the game in a rather boring and disappointing montage. Even the big game sort of drops the ball, finally showing a little more of the game, but still not in the manner that other sports film icons have done. It leads to again an offset pace and rather boring climax, bogged down again by the focus on one character. That was the biggest disappointment is not integrating the sports part of his life with the personal and thus the disconnecting continued to shine through.
The Way Back proves you can make a movie portraying pertinent issues with sports practice and not have the Hollywood effects drown it out. You just have to make sure you are expecting it. This film succeeds in the realism of portraying one man struggling to find his way back from a terrible time in life, but through work, patience, and support can get better. It accomplishes the inspirational story in a calmer manner and using the central focus of Affleck, whose acting brings this role to life, you will be pleased with the story presented. Yet, if you go in here looking for another sports film integrated with life lessons… you may disappointed. So many disjointed side plots get the realistic treatment of being haphazardly integrated and not fully fleshed out. It leads to uneven pacing for me, alongside underutilized secondary characters and the relationships that could have formed with the central character. The realism also seems to take the entertainment magic away, especially when it comes to the sports moments that you might be coming to see. Don’t expect drawn out games and those heroic moments that you’ve become accustomed to my friends, because they are not here. As such, the final thing is that the inspirational tale is here for this film, but the problem is other movies have done this better like Remember the Titans, Miracle, and Hoosiers. Given all this though, if you want realistic acting and a tale of succeeding, then this guy suggests a visit to the theater, but otherwise hold out for home viewing on this one.
My Scores are:
Movie Overall: 5.5