Director: Peter Landesman
Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin & Albert Brooks
Synopsis: In Pittsburgh, accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.
Rating: 12A Duration: 122 minutes Release date: 6 June (UK)
In 2009 GQ magazine published an expose on the efforts of Dr. Bennet Omalu and his attempts to have the NFL recognise that brain damage or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) was linked to the heavy tackles their athletes take on a weekly basis. Denying this possibility is like denying that the earth is round and it seems remarkable that the NFL could not come to the conclusion sooner. Concussion focuses on the work of Dr. Bennet and the impact this has on his personal and professional life.
Concussion opens strongly with a court room scene involving Will Smith’s Dr. Bennet Omalu as he gives evidence and establishes himself as a doctor who seeks to find the truth in all of his cases. Meanwhile, Mike Webster (David Morse), a former Pittsburgh Steeler is found dead under mysterious circumstances. A media storm ensues when Dr. Omalu is handed the case and finds that the former NFL player died of the blows he took to the head during his career.
Despite receiving help from a former doctor of the Steelers and other esteemed professionals, the public backlash and various threats take their toll on Bennet’s life. The focus of the film shifts between Bennet’s work in proving CTE is a legitimate condition and his private life. Quite what the story should focus is up for debate, but there needs to be a balance and Concussion could have done with finding it sooner.
It’s fair to say that Concussion moves at a sedate pace. Like Dr. Bennet, Concussion is methodical and takes time in reaching its conclusion. Rather than rush things, the film means to take things slowly but runs the risk of putting off viewers who were hoping for a more exhilarating ride. Patience, or maybe even persistence is key though as Concussion is a film worth sticking with.
Regardless of Will Smith’s Nigerian accent, which is sometimes great and sometimes not, the one time Fresh Prince puts in solid work as the troubled doctor who inadvertently takes on one of America’s largest corporations. His noble and steady performance lends the film a dignity among all the sordid politics and unpopular public reaction. He is assisted by the likes of Albert Brooks under some prosthetics, David Morse and Alec Baldwin as the Steelers former team doctor.
Its fine cast is helped by director Peter Landesman who, directing his second film, is showing a welcome confidence. Granted, little is unique here, but what Landesman does he does well and given the nature of the film it is something that should be applauded. Irrespective of the films box office or the hype, or lack of, it garnered around awards season, Concussion is more worthy of being watched than some of the other fluff that gets attention at such a bloated time.
Of course, Concussion has its faults. The slow pace will likely be off putting to some, and the lack of cohesiveness at times is annoying and most guilty of all some may find it boring. But, Concussion is a film worth watching for both Will Smith’s performance and for the complex story of a doctor taking on one of the United States’ great powers.
Nine deleted scenes
Crafting Concussion – focuses on the making of the film and runs at 12:55 minutes.
Inside the True Story – runs at 11:10 minutes and talks to Will Smith and Dr. Bennet Omalu, among others, who dicuss the damage that NFL players take during their careers and how Dr. Omalu conducted his work when he first met Mike Webster.
Commentary with director Peter Landesman