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Laramie Movie Scope: The Way Back

A shot at redemption

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 28, 2020 – Ben Affleck stars as a troubled alcoholic trying to turn his basketball team's season around while turning his own life around at the same time. This well-written drama has a long slow reveal of the main character's emotional demons, while eschewing the usual “big game” uplifting climax.

The movie opens with Jack (Affleck) drinking huge amounts of beer and hanging out at bars while somehow still holding down a construction job. He is summoned back to his old Catholic high school, where he was a star basketball player. He is asked to take over head basketball coaching duties at the school in mid-season because the current coach is ill.

After drinking heavily again, he decides to take the job. He finds out the team has a losing record, and has had for many seasons, ever since he graduated, it turns out. He is willing to coast along for a time, seemingly willing to put in minimal effort coaching the team.

One night, as the team is being embarrassed by one of the top teams in the league, Jack loses his temper and tells the team he wants them to get tough and fight the other team. He makes it clear that hard fouls are acceptable. A fight erupts, and it becomes clear that Jack's team is not going to back down any more.

Jack starts imposing his will on the team, making the players train harder. He takes his passive best player aside and tells him he wants him to be the team captain, and to act like it. The boy eventually comes out of his shell and becomes a leader, and the star of the team. Jack implements a fast-break, full-court-pressing strategy to overcome his team's small size, and the team begins to win.

At the same time, Jack starts to get his own life in order, stopping his drinking and spending more time with his ex-wife and other family members, but his inner demons are not defeated. They have merely gone into hiding. A tragedy causes Jack to backslide and his demons emerge again.

Gradually the tragedy at the heart of Jack's emotional problems is revealed, as is the real cause of his relapse. He is encouraged to finally face his inner demons. At the end of the film it appears that Jack is on his way to being healed at last. The ending of the film is bittersweet, with Jack shooting baskets alone on an outdoor court overlooking the ocean. This is not the usual cliché-ridden sports movie ending.

Affleck gives a fine performance as a man at war with himself. The sports action in the film is well-staged, and the supporting cast, including the players, give solid performances. There aren't too many good basketball movies, but this one is right up there among the best of them. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2020 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]