The Way Back Review

The Way Back is more than your average sports film. Yes, it feels all too familiar but what really makes it stand out, is the integration of Coach Cunningham’s backstory and how it affected his outlook when coaching.

Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) used to play basketball in high school. He was the all star player and was at the top of his game. After a series of poor decisions, that were made to spite his own father, Jack ended up being in a spot he never thought he’d be in. It’s true when people say that the child pays, for the sins of the father. It’s a vicious cycle and it takes one small change, to break the cycle.

Gavin O’Connor is a fantastic director and I really enjoy his style. The Way Back felt like a tight knit sports drama, while the observational style in the camerawork, felt like I was watching a documentary. The story was incredibly realistic and that’s why it pulled on the heartstrings. More importantly, O’Connor always manages to slowly peel back the layers of his characters, making the story progression more impactful. It’s a slow burn but it’s definitely effective.

Jack Cunningham is a very strong character. He’s subdued, most of his fighting is internal and his love of basketball makes him regain control of his life. This is also Ben Affleck’s best performance to date. It could be because the subject matter is close to him, so he could relate to Cunningham a bit more, but nonetheless, it’s incredibly moving. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play such a vulnerable character. It’s heartbreaking to watch because of how personal this film is to him. Affleck and O’Connor work very well together and this is their best collaboration yet.

Cunningham’s backstory, is more complex than the trailers lead on. As the story unfolds, his demons creep out and his past continues to haunt him because he represses his pain. Once he becomes a Coach and he’s around teenagers, with the same love for basketball, that he once had, he begins to reflect on his life. It’s an internal performance from Affleck but when he’s on the court with his team, that’s when the magic happens and I couldn’t have been happier to see him like that.

Affleck is the driving force of this film and it’s such a great sports film. The whole team was great and each of them had strong backstories. It’s all about being a role model to these kids and Cunningham did that without trying to be one. Sometimes you may feel small and think that your presence doesn’t affect anyone because that’s the darkness of doubt overpowering your mind. You may not think here are people who love and appreciate your existence, but there are.

It’s strong subject matter of alcoholism was executed quite well throughout. The way O’Connor showed the abuse of alcohol was unsettling but effective. No one had to say a word, but seeing any drink in Cunningham’s hand made me sad. It’s difficult to sit through because of how well they showed the alcoholism. Majority of the time the alcoholism is discussed but never shown and that’s why The Way Back is so well done.

I’m incredibly proud of Ben Affleck and how he chose this film to be a catharsis for his own suffering. The Way Back is one of his best, if not his BEST performance and he should be recognized for this. It’s hard to be vocal about your own pain and suffering and it’s a big step to openly discuss it with the world.

Just Mercy Review

Destin Daniel Cretton directed a generic biopic, based on the unfair treatment and systemic racism towards the black community, by the corrupt Alabama police force. Yes, these stories are powerful, when executed by talented actors, such as Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. Of course, it holds important values, which should be enforced in today’s society but these stories are getting repetitive and it’s frustrating to watch. Stories such as this one, involving wrongful conviction and mass incarceration are unfortunately still a harsh reality in America.

Does this film evoke an emotional response? Yes.

Are the actors delivering an important story in order to show this corruption in America? Yes.

However, within the past couple of years we’ve seen this narrative multiple times. We need more stories that have black actors in different roles. For every biopic that involves segregation or police brutality, there are only one or two films that break the character mould.

To make matters worse America is still in this state, the corruption is still there and it hasn’t gotten better, it just looks different. So showing the past and spreading hope that it should have changed, is ineffective because unless the system changes, these films are sadly a reality for so many people and shouldn’t be produced globally for mass consumption as Oscar bait any longer.

The film is purely used as Oscar bait. Yes, it has very important content but the actors are the reason this film was watchable. The pacing was extremely slow and the only scenes that really grabbed me were the scenes between Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan. They were both incredibly strong together and they drove the narrative forward but it just wasn’t enough for me.

Bombshell Review

The more I think about it, the more Bombshell, as a title, perfectly encapsulates this film and the various meanings of it. 

Jay Roach did a great job with the content at hand and reached new heights with integrating archival footage. The second Megyn Kelly came on screen, I was hooked. Charlize Theron transformed and embodied Kelly in every single aspect. She made me want to listen to her and learn from her. Kelly was a force and Theron exudes that power from the second she steps in the frame. I loved that they nailed the newsroom environment from the very beginning and they showed the different groups working at Fox News. 

The script was very well written and they managed to intertwine all three stories quite nicely. The pacing of the timeline was strong and the introduction of characters was seamless. You could tell that Kidman and Theron brought this story forward with purpose and their involvement was evident. 

Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Gretchen also should be praised because it’s a different stage in a woman’s life. The three stories represented three different version’s in the newsroom. Each woman had their own story and each of them were affected by Roger Ailes. 

The one performance that cannot go unnoticed is Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Kayla, the fresh, eager, beautiful face wanting to impress Mr. Ailes, in order to land that promotion. Robbie was naive, earnest and headstrong as Kayla, which ultimately led her to be confused and reserved, after the harassment claims were broadcast. The one scene that absolutely broke me was her first meeting with Ailes… her eyes said it all and it was traumatizing. 

This film was necessary and focused on the victims of sexual assault and harassment. There were moments of internal dialogue from women in very uncomfortable situations and hopefully this creates conversations about the treatment of language between colleagues. 

It’s very well done and I didn’t expect this film to surprise me the way it did, it truly was a bombshell.