If you are looking for a movie that you can get into and draw your own conclusions after everything is said and done, Concussion is the one for you. Not only is it some of Will Smith’s best work, but it also shines a bright light on an issue that big for-profit entities would never want you to know the truth about.
Concussion is a solid movie that pretty much anyone without an ounce of knowledge beforehand of the topic matter can appreciate. Whether you followed the story over the years of CTE in the NFL or have no idea what CTE stands for (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) this movie will satisfy most viewers.
First tackling the story and plot itself, the writers set it up nicely. Most people are unaware of the situation surrounding the story and so Concussion lays the groundwork for a basic understand of what’s at stake quickly. It gives us the most pertinent details of the complicated story with little to no tedium.
The narrative unfolds slowly but captivates your attention the entire time simply because the subject matter is so interesting and as you see throughout the film, heartbreaking. But the way in which the story is written isn’t Concussion’s biggest appeal.
Will Smith’s stellar performance as Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian forensic neuropathologist working in Pittsburgh, is noteworthy, and one can definitely see why people are saying that he gives the performance of a lifetime. From his mannerisms, to how he walks, holds his head and speaks, he is so meticulous. You can feel the care and consideration he put into making sure he did Omalu’s story justice. I will argue, however, that he has given just as great a performance or even better in Ali or I Am Legend. Even with my self-proclamation as a Will Smith super fan, I will honestly say that is not a biased assessment and I have seen him give this caliber of performance. With that, the other actors in the film give some of their best performances as well. Albert Brooks is always a joy to watch, and I find myself intrigued by the way he tackles his characters in just about every one of his movies.
Another interesting takeaway from the film is how people are seen as disposable moneymakers to big name companies. One of the central conflicts comes down to a question of ethics. Not just for doctors who administer medical treatment to players knowing that their ailments are far more serious than just a bump on the head, but extends to those who work with them like trainers and others who know what goes on behind the scenes. I find myself asking this question too often in the film, “How?”
How did we get to a place as a society where we value the all mighty dollar more than lives? How is that keeping the fans and investors happy is more important than the overall health and well-being of these athletes? To sweep the truth under the rug because it’s inconvenient happens more than we know. Who would have really thought it that much of an occurrence in a professional sports league? In the pharmaceutical companies, yes, we all know they aren’t good for anything and would rather keep people sick and coming back instead of offering real healing. Even the government we know works with ulterior motives at the top of its list. But entities like the NFL? It staggers my mind.
The other ethical dilemma that Concussion presents is the question is it ever okay to stop pursuing something you know is right for fear of retaliation. Dr. Omalu was faced with this decision as his research and findings began to pose a threat to the safety and quality of life of his family. He ultimately made the decision to leave Pittsburgh and move to California because those who didn’t want the truth to be told made it extremely hostile for him to live and work in the city. In fact, the lengths at which unseen forces went to silence Dr. Omalu and his boss are frightening. I mean, even the FBI got involved by bringing some bogus allegations in an attempt to put fear in them.
Concussion ends with no be climax or a lot of hoopla, but that’s okay. The tone of the movie is stern and even the entire length of the film, and it should be as the subject matter calls for focus. I give it a 4 out of 5.
Film Review: ‘Concussion’
Reviewed at AFI Fest (Centerpiece Gala), Los Angeles, Nov. 10, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 121 MIN.
PRODUCTION: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation, in association with LStar Capital and Village Roadshow Pictures, of a Scott Free, Shuman Co., Cara Films, Cantillon Co. production. Produced by Ridley Scott, Giannina Scott, David Wolthoff, Larry Shuman, Elizabeth Cantillon. Executive producers, Michael Schaefer, David Crockett, Ben Waisbren, Bruce Berman, Greg Basser.
CREW: Directed, written by Peter Landesman, based on the GQ article “Game Brain” by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Camera (color), Salvatore Totino; editor, William Goldenberg; music, James Newton Howard; production designer, David Crank; costume designer, Dayna Pink; art director, Tom Frohling; sound, Lee Orloff, Jim Emswiller; supervising sound editor, Dave McMoyler; re-recording mixers, Christian P. Minkler, Michael Minkler; visual effects supervisor, Jamie Dixon; assistant director, Vincent Palmo; casting, Lindsay Graham, Mary Vernieu.
WITH: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Matthew Willig, Albert Brooks.