Concussion Movie Review

As I sit here and brainstorm about what I want to say about Will Smith’s new football drama, Concussion, I am currently watching the New England Patriots take on the Houston Texans. Now, the original plan was first to write about how millions of Americans- myself included- will spend every Sunday watching a full day’s worth of football for 17 consecutive weeks. In addition to Sundays, there are also Monday, Thursday, and the occasional Saturday night football games, and we must not forget about the four weeks of playoffs that ends with America’s new favorite holiday, Super Bowl Sunday. However, something happened during the game that has always been a costly price for playing this sport but has only become a prominent concern in recent years. Can you guess what it is?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith in Concussion

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Will Smith in Concussion

The quarterback for the Texans, Brian Hoyer, left during the fourth quarter after possibly suffering another concussion (he was diagnosed with one less than a month ago). Concussions are definitely not a new risk for these players; however, understanding the actual risks of these types of head injuries are. Along with the growing concerns about the dangers of head on collisions, the National Football League is now being held accountable for the player’s safety on the field. Because of this, the league has enforced a more extensive concussion protocol; however, concussions have not been prevented. According to PBS and their “Concussion Watch”, the NFL had 171 concussions in 2012, 152 in 2013, 123 in 2014, and 166 so far in the 2015 season. It is safe to say that Concussion is being released at a pivotal time.

Concussion is based on the remarkable true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) as he makes a startling discovery about the brain damage found in football players who have suffered numerous concussions throughout their careers. As he began to officially diagnose and describe this type of brain injury, which he called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), he realized that he is in for an unlikely uphill battle. By fighting for the truth and, more importantly, the players’ safety, Dr. Omalu was positioning himself against one of the most powerful organization in America- The National Football League.

Writer and director, Peter Landesman, has crafted a film that is serious, thoughtful, and convincing. He delicately presents this timely issue that is embedded in our culture and favorite sport in a compelling and compassionate manner. From the opening scene, he takes a hold of your attention and never lets it go. The film becomes extremely riveting when Landesman also provides a fascinating scientific look behind the dangers of playing this violent sport. As much as it is a sports biopic, it is a medical procedural that is honest and impactful. By using science behind its explanation, we see how damning this information is. For every beautiful catch that is shown in the movie, there is also a clip of a violent hit that has seriously injured a player. This evokes great emotion from the audience, and we start to question and think about the real consequences of playing this game. It definitely will stay with you as you realize how barbaric of this sport can be.

What really propels Concussion and makes it emotional and entertaining are the terrific performances in the film, more specifically Will Smith’s performance. He is absolutely excellent and carries the film on his back with ease and grace. This is without a doubt, Smith’s best performance and probably his most touching. He is sensitive and conveys great passion and emotion as Dr. Omalu. His commitment to the character and accent is superb, and you just can’t help but to fall in love with the character. Along with Will Smith, there are fine performances from Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Gugu plays Prema, the love interest and future wife of Dr. Omalu. Together they do share some beautiful scenes, but unfortunately, Gugu is mostly underused and is playing a character that is one note.

Although the film might be slightly undone by its straightforward and traditional sports genre storytelling and unnecessary melodramatic moments, it most certainly packs a punch. For many years now, we have all ignorantly cheered big hit after big hit in an NFL game. Hell, we even celebrated when a player gets hit so hard that he is practically unconscious. The best example of this, which is also brilliantly placed in the film, is an old ESPN segment called, “Jacked Up.” This segment was built around looking back at the most violent hits of each week. Every crewmember on this segment would sometimes laugh and scream: “Jacked Up,” while the player in the video package was either visibly woozy or in pain on the ground. I will admit that I used to love this segment and would always look forward to watching it, but now, seeing this segment again and knowing what we do now- it turns my stomach. Thankfully, times have changed. The segment is no longer on air, those hits are less celebrated, and are usually met with a penalty. However, there is still a problem in the NFL concerning the player’s safety.  As of right now, there is no clear-cut answer and Peter Landesman does not provide one. What he does provide is a scientific look at the dangers of playing this violent sport that will most certainly create more dialogue about this issue. If you are an NFL fan, this film should be required viewing.

The cast includes: Will Smith (Hitch), Albert Brooks (Drive), Alec Baldwin (To Rome With Love), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Beyond The Lights), and David Morse (The Hurt Locker). It was written and directed by Peter Landesman (Parkland).

-By Louie Coruzzolo

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