Concussion (2015)

My Score

A dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world

Genre : Drama/Biography/Sport
Country : USA/UK/Australia

Cast
:

Will Smith : Dr. bennet Omalu
Alec Baldwin : Dr. Julian Bailes
Gugu Mbatha-Raw : Prema Mutiso

Director : Peter Landesman

My opinion

“The NFL owns a day of the week.
The same day the Church used to own.
Now it’s theirs.“

You can hardly say “Concussion” is a swirling, action-packed film. The movie tells (in a painfully slow pace) the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), a Nigerian pathologist who discovers the existence of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). A brain trauma athletes of certain sports (mostly body contact sports) could get. Like top players of the NFL. This because they have to endure huge blows on their heads, countless times during their careers. In other words, their brains are slowly beaten to pulp. The end result is that these players inevitably change into aggressive, half-crazed hopeless cases, tormented by hallucinations, inner voices and a splitting headache (just to name a few symptoms). In most cases, their symptoms will be classified as an early stage of the Alzheimer’s disease. After an autopsy on the deceased Mike Webster (David Morse), Dr. Omalu decides on his own to let Webster’s brains being examined. This is how he discovered the true nature of Webster’s strange behavior. And after examining brains of other former star players who committed suicide, it showed that they had the same symptom. Time for the NFL to take countermeasures. But not to protect future players for those injuries. 

We witness an outright clash between Dr. Omalu and the CEO’s of the NFL, who consider this national sport in danger of disappearing when it appears to be unhealthy to bash your helmeted head against others all your life (I’m not a doctor, but I knew this wouldn’t be healthy). Just as Dr. Omalu I don’t know zip about American football. I also don’t understand how come an entire nation is crazy about this particular sport. However, American football became an industry, with hundreds of thousands employed there and where a lot of money is made. Despite the generous donations from the NFL to different charities, it’s obvious they want to protect their source of income, at all costs, against this Nigerian immigrant. And if it doesn’t work with telephone threats and intimidations, they’ll surely find a way to send him back to his homeland. Omalu versus the NFL. It sounds just like an exciting Super Bowl.

Concussion” is a moving and emotional film. Actually, it’s quite sad when you see how those huge, muscled guys end up as a heap of misery. And of course again an outsider who puts his finger on the problem. Needless to say this is some brilliant acting by Will Smith. One similar to that of “The Pursuit of Happyness“. Overall, I think Smith is an excellent actor who in my eyes only twice made a mistake when it’s about choosing a role. And for me that’s “Wild Wild West” and “After Earth“. In this movie he’s once again excellent as the devout, sometimes naive but brilliant physician who has some bizarre rituals while performing an autopsy. This film was perfect to get an Oscar nomination. That explains the release date of course. Unfortunately, probably there were some American football fans among the jurors, making it being nipped in the bud. I’m also sure that Smith’s popularity won’t benefit from it.

Also, the supporting roles were superb. Especially the traumatized Webster, in an admirable way played by David Morse. A beautiful and shocking interpretation at the same time. And also an impressive usage of makeup. It seemed as if Webster’s forehead hid a swollen tumor. Even Alec Baldwin as the remorseful Dr. Julian Bailes was convincing. And finally, there is the lovely Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a Kenyan girl who stayed over at Dr. Omalu’s house. Of course her contribution serves to romanticize this serious subject. Before you know it, she walks around pregnant.

Concussion” is on the one hand an indictment against the NFL bastion. But on the other hand this national sport is also being praised a bit and shows some legendary moments of NFL matches. Even Prema quotes the following: “You should see this, Bennett. It’s in fact something beautiful“. All in all it’s clear that money is more important than using common sense. I just wonder if this film will cause something of a stir. Certainly when you see how much fuss there was about an innocent nipple slip during the Super Bowl. Frankly, I think this storm (if it shows up) will lie down quickly, and everything stays the same. I just had one major question : how will an ex-NFL player feel, after watching this movie!

My rating 7/10
Links : IMDB

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