Will Smith is spot-on in his depiction of Nigerian-born pathologist Bennet Omalu. However, The performance is greater than the movie, which is solid but not the memorable masterpiece that was teased in glimpses during the trailer. Concussion is a well-informed and superbly acted true-story that never quite achieves the emotional impact that its striving towards. Perhaps, this is due to the tangled real-life story not fitting into a three act structure that comfortably.
When Steelers hall of famer Mike Webster dies of a massive heart attack, Omalu is the forensic pathologist assigned to the autopsy. During the course of the procedure Dr. Omalu discovers abnormal proteins that have fused onto the brain. These unusual markings lead to the inaugural medical diagnosis of CTE, a condition that accrued during Webster’s 18 years playing professional football.
More cases begin to pile up and Bennet becomes increasingly vocal about his discovery and the dangers of impact/trama to the head. Naturally, the NFL becomes defensive about the news and then they act defiant in not accepting the scientific proof presented to them. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell organizes a committee on player’s safety which dismisses Omalu’s published study.
This very public rejection comes with considerable pressure to back down from his efforts. Bennet’s boss (Albert Brooks) is subjected to a dubious prosecution on corruption charges, and his wife, Prema, loses their baby after being stalked and harassed. However, the conversation turns when former NFL Players Association executive Dave Duerson commits suicide, and admits that Omalu’s findings have merit. This forces Congress to look at the issue, and directs the NFL to make changes and implement concussion protocols.
Supporting the excellent work from Smith is Albert Brooks as Omalu’s cranky superior, Alec Baldwin as a former team doctor with a mountain of guilt, and David Morse as the mentally ill Steeler’s hero, Mike Webster. While Concussion isn’t the sure-fire OSCAR contender that was speculated pre-release, it is a very earnest and engrossing film that deserves to be seen by every football player and fan. If millions of weekly spectators cheer for their on-field glory, we must be prepared to not look away when the ramifications of such activities occurs.
Director: Peter Landesman
Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks