“Concussion” is a film of great social import. The movie was directed by Peter Landesman, who also wrote the screenplay. This is Landesman’s second film as a director. Previously he had been a painter, a novelist and an award-winning investigative journalist with the New York Times. This film is based on a controversial article written for GQ by Jeanne Marie Laskas about long-term effects on the human brain caused by the repeated head trauma endured by football players, identified as CTE.
Landesman smartly pulled together a team of talented veterans to help him make this movie. Accomplished composer James Newton Howard had worked with Landesman on his film “Parkland.” Cinematographer Salvatore Totino had worked on “The DaVinci Code” and “Everest.” Totino captures the anguish of those affected by CTE against the bleak milieu that is Pittsburgh in the winter. Production designer David Crank also has great credentials, including “There Will Be Blood” and “The Tree of Life.” Editor William Goldenberg keeps the pace moving with emotional impact in this extraordinary story.
Will Smith absolutely embodies his character, Dr. Bennet Omalu, the unpretentious forensic neuropathology genius whose investigations uncovered this common football brain condition. Smith has become a fine actor. This is not his usual heroic leading man role, and he has obviously done an incredible amount of research to play this real-life doctor who comes from a vastly different cultural background from his own. Smith doesn’t even appear to be himself at all in this film. He has been able to assume the physicality of an extremely intelligent immigrant from Nigeria to the United States, with several advanced degrees and doctorates, who does not fit well into social circles in this country and thus has developed a tendency to create a life inside of his own mind. As an outsider, Omalu has the ability to stand apart and observe. Even Smith’s face displays the mannerisms of such a person. Omalu’s ability to look at a situation from outside society’s normal course of thinking is what allowed him to focus on discovering the cause of deadly symptoms among professional football players. He did not have to worry about being ostracized. In a sense, he had nothing to lose.
Smith’s fine performance is complemented by those of his supporting cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stephen Moyer, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Eddie Marsan, and especially David Morse’s highly dramatic turn as tragic football great Mike Webster.
I am a football fan, and as much as I love watching the game, I also develop a great fan relationship with the players. Whatever needs to be done to keep the game exciting, yet protect our treasured players from agonizing, life-threatening injuries, specifically those that can manifest years later, absolutely must be acted upon. This is indeed a very important film.
Rated PG-13. 123 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at email@example.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.