Concussion Movie Review
It’s no secret that football is a dangerous sport. But the fact that it could cause lingering head trauma effecting mental instability was only recently discovered. CONCUSSION follows accomplished forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) as he uncovers the detrimental truth about the suffering brain damage football players receive from repeated concussions. The severity in which the damaging results will follow a player is important information that must be considered before getting into this sport. Unfortunately, CONCUSSION is a watered down frivolous telling to what otherwise should be captivating, informative game changer.
The always charismatic Will Smith has not been taken on the best projects as of late. FOCUS, AFTER EARTH, MEN IN BLACK 3 did not exactly garner the blockbuster or critical appeal that he usually receives. It appears like that streak will continue as CONCUSSION pretends desperately to be one of those award type movies that comes out during this time of year, but will only fool those few who have a condition similar to the film’s title. Will Smith does an admirable job maintaining his Nigerian accent throughout the film and clearly is taking his craft appropriately serious. However, the screenplay and direction from Peter Landesman does the actor zero favors.
CONCUSSION simply put, is mostly filler. Oddly long montages of Smith researching floods the screen. We see his hands as they type, work microscopes, fidget and rub the chin. We get it, he’s researching and it takes time. Pondering seems to be a key ingredient to the CONCUSSION formula as we get no idea what he is looking at until he explains things in the simplest way possible. One can appreciate the easy explanations, Pictionary drawings and egg in jar visual aids, but the redundancy is nearly unbearable. And the bewildered look from other trained professionals who should understand the problem easier than we should is laughable.
But these moments are still at least halfway interesting as they keep on topic. The biggest blunder is the unnecessary love story that has no relevance or even symbolic gesture to the picture. The amount of time spent on the courtship is unnecessary but how they choose to spend that time is ridiculous. From an uncomfortable and inexplicable church sanctioned roommate situation to making out at a techno dance club, I never once bought this budding relationship. From an awkward conversation about television to purchasing land for a home, I also never cared about these people’s lives together.
When it came to the NFL aspect, there actually seemed to be a lot less push back than expected from a multi-million dollar industry. Clearly, they could have been doing a lot more to prevent injury and educate the players as well as themselves, but the film sort of glosses over that issue or at least does not cover the drama in a compelling manner. Yes there is a line or two about discrediting Dr. Omalu and an implied car chase, but apparently either the evidence was too thick for the NFL to deny or the filmmakers were too fearful of what the NFL might do in protest. Either way, the drama is limited to long conversations in stagnant settings or simply attempting some inconsequential love story. The supporting work from Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks is decent. Every now and again we get a troubled victim from the NFL who commits suicide in some sad form. Unfortunately, the action plays out like some poorly made for TV reenactment, which is only hindered more from the distractingly bad makeup.
Like many people, I’m a fan of football, Will Smith and the medical field. This film doesn’t change any of that. While the discovery of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) will probably keep me from allowing my kids to play football, the film isn’t the reason for that decision or my education on the topic. I definitely think the NFL should be doing more service for physical and mental pain their product can have on their players. I’m also saddened for all the players and their families who have suffered from these unbeknownst after effects of head traumas that result in CTE . Maybe at the very least, this film can bring more of that issue to light. But CONCUSSION proves that interesting material covering serious issues with an A-list actor does not always equate to a quality film.