By Darlene Donloe
Concussion, which opened Christmas day, is one of those hard-hitting (pun intended) movies that lingers in the subconscious.
Whether it’s an indictment on the NFL, has an agenda or is just a well-crafted drama about the consequences of repeated head trauma while playing football, it all leads up to an inspiring, entertaining movie.
The film is based on Jeanne Marie Laskas’s 2009 article in GQ that tells the story of real-life forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith) as he investigates the early deaths of several former professional football players. His research shows that many football players suffered from a brain condition caused by the game, and, not surprisingly, receives heavy pushback from the NFL.
During his research, Omalu found that “repetitive head trauma chokes the brain.”
Smith, who recently garnered a Golden Globe nod for his portrayal of Omalu, does some of his best work in Concussion. Although his Nigerian accent drops in and out, much like his character in Pursuit of Happyness, Smith delivers a quality performance with a bevy of emotions. Smith plays Omalu as an eccentric genius who talks to dead people to find out how they died - much to the chagrin of one of his co-workers.
The story goes like this: While conducting an autopsy on former NFL football player Mike Webster (David Morse), forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) discovers neurological deterioration that is similar to Alzheimer's disease. He names the disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy and publishes his findings in a medical journal. As other athletes face the same diagnosis, the crusading doctor embarks on a mission to raise public awareness about the dangers of football-related head trauma. Of course, the NFL is none too happy with the good doctor’s findings.
Intertwined in the film is a touching love story. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Omalu’s love interest. It’s a gentle, loving story that peels away at Omalu’s somewhat cold and sterile exterior.
Stellar performances all around. Morse is exceptional as Webster. He doesn’t have a huge amount of screen time, however his time on screen is nonetheless pivotal.
Albert Brooks brings just the right amount of drama and levity. Alec Baldwin is solid as a former team doctor.
If the movie does nothing else, it makes you think. In some cases, it makes you think twice. In fact, after watching this cautionary tale, parents may think thrice about allowing their children to play organized football – and for good reason.
It stands to reason why the NFL would be up in arms about the film. However, when you think about the brain damage that can occur, one can’t help but wonder why more preventative procedures are not put into place to keep the athletes from harm. Never mind, we all know. It’s about the almighty $$$$$. Money talks. In any industry there are always casualties of war. However, in this case, it may be time to call the next play!
Concussion, directed by Peter Landesman, stars Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Luke Wilson, Bitsie Tulloch, Arliss Howard, Stephen Moyer, Richard T. Jones, Mike O’Malley, Hill Harper, Paul Reiser and Eddie Marsan.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Concussion gets an E (excellent).