by | Dec 28, 2015 | 0 comments

An Inspiring Look at the Trauma that Affects American Football Players

American football is the most popular sport in the United States of America. It generates more money than many other professional industries, and thus is one of the most powerful organizations in America. In Concussion we see how this huge organization tries to deny the work of Dr. Omalu, who has discovered that football players get head traumas that ultimately lead them to lose their minds and even take their own lives.

Concussion is essentially the true story of Dr. Bennett Omalu (Will Smith), a Nigerian immigrant who is incredibly intelligent, having multiple degrees for various colleges domestic and international. Omalu works doing autopsies in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, he frequents trials and gives his accounts and often overturns the verdicts of many cases. In one autopsy, of a beloved football player Mike Webster (David Morse), Omalu finds nothing. This specifically intrigues Omalu since this beloved sports legend had been found in the back of a van, dead from a heart attack at age 50. Omalu then funds his own study into Webster’s brain; it is here that he finds the cause of his death. After studying multiple cases of other dead football players, Omalu publishes a study that shows how football collisions choke the brain and cause men to suffer from CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy). What follows is a storm from the NFL, and even the government, as they try and silence Omalu and prevent him from bringing down one of the country’s biggest industries.

The film is incredibly impactful, and what’s more, it surprises us all that this study was done in 2002 and that contact football is still practiced to this day. Yes, I doubt there will be numerous debates about how I am claiming that we should rule out all contact sports, and that it would be taking away centuries of tradition and entertainment; but you can’t deny that being able to prevent damage to a human being and not following to do so, is horrifying indeed. That is essentially the message that this film wants you to understand.

The film is really held up by a great Will Smith, who has finally stepped away from his stint of blockbusters and is back into complex and meaningful roles. He dons an African accent for his character here, and while that may have been a distraction for the audience, he ends up doing it so well that we almost forget about it. This certainly is one of Smith’s most vulnerable roles in years and, because of it, it’s also one of his best. But we mustn’t rule out a great Gugu Mbatha-Raw who plays his wife.  Mbatha-Raw is quickly rising up in the star-meter, she broke out with Belle and has proceeded with two very different roles in Beyond the Lights and now Concussion. She is able to give us small doses of her relationship between her character and Omalu, and this proceeds in giving us a human side to the story; something which almost makes the journey personal to the audience. Mbatha-Raw certainly helps bring a certain depth and reality to the whole story. Albert Brooks is also in this film, and he has a good time playing Omalu’s boss at the clinic. But what I had a problem was with Alec Baldwin and Luke Wilson. Both of these actors are great comedic ones, but therein lies the problem: they’re comedy actors. Baldwin and Wilson kept trying to take their roles seriously, but they have built a reputation on sarcasm and caricatures and so, as the audience, you never really take them seriously. It could simply have been remedied by giving them some funny lines; it would certainly have helped make the movie lighter, and, ironically, would have helped take their characters a bit more seriously.

Then we come to the actual direction of the story. Peter Landesman is a fine director, and he certainly kept a good pace and grip during the beginning of the movie. But I felt that as the story got bigger, and more storylines had to be weaved in Landesman lost control of the story and he ended up spreading too thin over too many storylines. It shows that he might have been a bit too ambitious given his current experience.

Overall, however, the film carries and incredibly important message and that is what is so essential about Concussion. Smith delivers one of his best performances in years, and despite some uncertain directing, this ends up being an incredibly illuminating film. 



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