Review by Dustin Heller
Concussion is the new sports drama movie starring Will Smith as Dr. Bennett Omalu, the forensic pathologist who fought the National Football League about the long term effects the game was having on its players. The film is based on the 2009 GQ exposé Game Brain by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Peter Landesman (Parkland) wrote and directed the film. Along with Smith, the film also stars Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Albert Brooks, Paul Reiser, and Luke Wilson. Concussion is rated PG-13 for thematic material including some disturbing images, and language.
The film tells the story of Dr. Bennett Omalu who had the random chance of being the doctor on duty when ex-Pittsburgh Steeler and NFL hall of famer Mike Webster’s body came to the morgue. Omalu saw something different in Webster’s brain than he’d ever seen before and was forced to pay for additional testing out of his own pocket in order to find a diagnosis. What he found were the very damaging effects the game of football had on Webster’s brain and he named the disorder CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). The film looks at the struggles and obstacles the NFL put in Omalu’s way to keep his findings quiet and away from the public. Omalu and his wife fought for what they believed in even though there were some very harsh consequences.
I had a very confused feeling walking out of my screening of Concussion–kind of like I didn’t see a complete movie. The first half of the film is very engrossing and gives the impression that something big is going to happen, but then halfway through it just stalls and never gets back on track. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement because of how strongly the movie started and the relevant subject matter.
Instead of being a movie about the effects of concussions on the game of football and how this medical breakthrough changed the game, it was really more of a biopic on Omalu. He’s an extraordinary person and deserves more accolades than he’s gotten, but this film could have and should have been much bigger and important. I remember thinking early on in the film that this movie is going to be a big blow to the NFL and could have a major impact on the game itself, but by the time it was over, that optimism was replaced with confusion.
With all of that said, Concussion is still a pretty good film that gets an excellent performance out of Will Smith, but it just felt incomplete. Perhaps this movie will serve as a starting point in shedding additional light on the effects of concussions and how they are related to football, but I was hoping it would be a landmark that could really cause change.
Concussion opens in theaters on Christmas Day, December 25