During his autopsy on American football legend Mike Webster (David Morse), forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) discovers that the former Pittsburgh Steelers player is suffering from a disease he names CTE – Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
It’s a progressive degenerative disease found in those who have suffered repetitive brain trauma. In this case, it’s the repeated knocks to the head Webster suffered during his long playing career. Omalu then deepens an investigation that ultimately sees him taking on the biggest sports entertainment giant in America: the National Football League.
As a small-time American football fan (Go Seahawks!), it’s never easy to see a sport that you appreciate suffering repercussions of such magnitude. And as Smith’s character explained the cause and effect of head injuries, I found myself wincing whenever they featured snippets of an actual football game – the tackles actually seemed more brutal.
This really got me thinking about just how bad the situation might be for pro-footballers who don’t believe, or aren’t aware of the real risks at hand. After all, it’s not just a career that ends, but possibly a life might too.
Given that the NFL is such a big corporation, I was a little worried about getting a watered-down version of an otherwise huge PR problem for NFL. But for a sports drama, Concussion did well to balance the heavy drama with touching scenes that tugged at the heart string.
Shedding his action hero persona, Smith does a brilliant job as the lead – establishing the personality of his character from the start (no faltering African accent) and winning the audience over easily. One standout scene – where Omalu and his wife receive some bad news – gave me chills when I saw just how well Will Smith could hold onto his tears. The man’s eyes were really red, but he only shed one tear.
But it’s easy to root for Omalu, a man on a crusade who even talks to the bodies he autopsies before cutting them open. But he’s not just seeking the NFL’s admission of a huge problem – he’s also seeking acceptance and inclusion, even in the face of scorn and disbelief.
The rest of the cast complement Smith’s character well, but are all either a little overshadowed at times or are there simply to move the story along. Alec Baldwin, who played Doctor Julian Bailes, had a rather good chemistry with Smith’s character but, thanks to his demeanour, had me thinking he was going to turn out a bad guy (which thankfully he didn’t!).
Luke Wilson as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell definitely felt like a waste of his acting chops, as he hardly appeared on-screen and much of his dialogue even came through a television set. Several TV stars also showed up, who were basically playing a movie version of their previous TV roles. I’m looking at you, Mike O’Malley – this isn’t Glee.
Concussion may not be the blockbuster of the month but it does have its qualities, though slightly exaggerated. Come CNY, I’ll be busy wow-ing my relatives with my newly acquired medical knowledge on head injuries in sports.
Concussion is playing in Singapore now. Tell us what you think of the movie! Also, check out our list of 20 geek movies you must absolutely watch this year.