Trying its best to add something new to a very familiar storyline, The Way Back succeeds at its modest goals. The tale of redemption through sporting endeavour is a well travelled road and writer/director Gavin O’Connor puts substantial effort into adding something new to the journey.
Ben Affleck, who has had his own issues with substance abuse, plays Jack Cunningham, a man hiding in a bottle to avoid dealing with a huge personal loss. The establishing scenes make if very clear that there is a deep seated problem with alcohol and as things develop you are given more details on the cause.
Affleck, never known for his dynamic range as an actor is well cast as a man that feels only pain and his monosyllabic delivery suits the character. The film gives you information at regular intervals to fill the gaps in your knowledge base. This keeps you engaged and also plots a course for your expectations.
It speaks of the film’s value, that even with those expectations firmly established, it still has the ability to veer off course and defy what has become the most common crescendo for movies of this ilk. It is less a sports movie and more a study of grief and its paralysing effect. That the redemption offered at the end is more a whisper than a shout reenforces its solid approach.