MOVIE REVIEW: Concussion

Concussion (2016)
Director: Peter Landesman
Writers: Peter Landesman, Jeanne Marie Laskas (GQ article “Game Brain”)
Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks

The remarkable true story of a Doctor who discovers that the NFL was blind to the fact that head trauma was causing long-term damage to their players.

I live in Dublin, Ireland, and care little about sports, most of my brothers like the English Soccer teams, Dad used to like kickboxing and boxing, Mam was an Irish Country girl so she liked Irish Gaelic Sports.  For me, I liked and still like movies, sports just never did anything for me.  As I’ve grown older I’ve started to appreciate the skill, talent, and dedication of sports players.  I don’t watch much in the way of games, The Six Nations Rugby games, The Super Bowl, and the occasional UFC fight.  I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that I’m not fanatical about sports.  The one thing I do know though, being around sporty people most of my life, is the long-term effects that taking part in competitive sports has on our bodies.  When you see the impact of a punch, a tackle, you think it’s cool and exciting, for the players it’s another chip off their life expectancy.

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So Concussion is about Doctor Bennet Omalu who is performing an autopsy on one of American Football’s biggest retired stars.  Through his autopsy startling signs that have never shown up in any of the stars medical reports show a worrying trend for Football players.  Will Smith plays Omalu, and I have to give him credit, he plays this dedicated and sympathetic man who loves to learn and still treats the dead as living patients.  It’s Will Smiths best role in years, giving his acting talent a good testing, he’s depended on his natural charm for a lot of movies over the last few years and this strips that old crutch down to a bare minimum.  The film is based on a true story, and the article in a magazine, which exposed how this multi billion business didn’t care about their players, as long as the fans were happy to keep spending cash, and the TV ratings went up.  The opposition to the findings that the players live in constant danger with every hit is met with hatred from not just the NFL, but the fans, the medical profession, and the cities that rely on the sport for part of their income.

The film has an impressive cast and manages to utilize them all to the best of their talents.  Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, David Morse, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Eddie Marsan, Paul Reiser, and Luke Wilson.   Alec Baldwin here plays a doctor that has made his career as a medic for one of the top teams and finally opens his eyes to the true damage that the impacts that are part of the game will have on the players.

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We travel with Omalu through the resistance he faces professionally and from the sport body itself, but what adds to how engrossed you become in this film is how they show the players of the sport and the effects that this illness has on their lives and the lives of their families.  A fully engrossing drama that will make you look in wonder at how money rules over safety.  What really works for the film is that it explains the sport and the people behind the sport in a way that if you know little to nothing about the game you’ll be able to understand enough to the point that you’ll get what is going on.  Which is nice, there were a few moments I was starting to get lost, not knowing what they were on about, and all of a sudden they manage to explain the medical and physical in one brief moment.

This is Will Smith showing that he can act, he’s more than just that cocky smile and shooting a gun, but we’ll see him back to that later this year in Suicide Squad, and gives us a look about the true cost on the future of athletes for what they give on the field.  Worth checking out for fans of Will Smith, fans of American Football, and fans of exceptionally good drama.

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