Concussion – Film Review by Fran Winston
Directed by: Peter Landesman
Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks
Given the fuss that Will Smith and his wife Jada pinkett Smith made about the whitewashing of this years Oscars, I was expecting great things from this film. As a former nominee Smith knows exactly what it takes to land on the shortlist. So was he robbed? The answer is no. While he does indeed give a competent, sensitive and engaging performance in this true life drama it just never feels layered enough to elevate it to Oscar status.
He plays Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania coroner’s office, who discovered a condition he termed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Numerous former football players were dying as a result of this affliction, which is caused by repeated blows to the head. However since the NFL is a multimillion dollar business and practically a religion in the USA (this reference is made more than once here) they are not too happy with his findings and what follows is years of persecution for Omalu and his family and friends as they try to discredit and destroy him before eventually conceding that he is right.
As you’ve probably gathered from the plot synopsis this is not a full on action sports movie – rather it is an extremely heavy drama which often falls victim to its own gravitas. All of the key players are still alive so producers obviously don’t want to step on people’s toes but its desire to convey the facts in a balanced and measured way mean it never leaves the safe zone and doesn’t take any chances. This could have been an excellent social commentary on the arrogance of big corporations and the lengths they will go to in order to bury scandal but instead it is drama by numbers.
This would benefit from coming up for air once in a while. Extremely heavy and with numerous technical facts and figures thrown at the viewer it is not the kind of flick you can switch off with. This requires your full attention but doesn’t result in a huge payoff for the effort. Worth a look but far from light entertainment.