Lifestyle & Culture

‘Concussion’ Hits Hard at the NFL

January 10, 2016


Will Smith in “Concussion.”

“CONCUSSION” HAS SO many good things going for it, it’s hard to know where to start. First on the list has to be Will Smith’s impressive performance, one where he’s not even Will Smith anymore but some actor you’ve never seen before, one whose ears don’t even stick out all that much. As the brilliant Nigerian forensic specialist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, Smith has a very convincing accent that never gives out, which happens sometimes halfway through a movie. (Do they think we won’t notice?) Never an avid Smith fan myself, still I loved him in this role and hope he gets some kind of award from somebody for it.

In this sad-but-true story, Smith plays an accidental whistle-blower who inadvertently condemns the entire NFL when he discovers this dire truth: playing football causes head injuries that ultimately lead players to commit suicide. The tautly written tale unfolds in Pittsburgh, a somewhat overlooked American city that finally gets its day in the sun. Lots of aerial shots — the city at night with its stunning skyscrapers aglow or in bright daylight, gliding over the confluence of its two rivers that join to become a third — show off its best features with sharp cinematography.

Solid performances by the entire cast, notably David Morse (star of TV’s St. Elsewhere” years ago), the ubiquitous Alec Baldwin and an ancient-looking but endearing Albert Brooks, make it an ensemble piece. There’s also a love interest for the good doctor. (She’s adorable, whoever she is; editor’s note: her name is Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

An unassertive sound track balances out the intensity of several autopsies performed on athletes who succumbed to post-brain death suicide after years of cracking their heads against other players, some of whom will likely meet similar fates, be it by gunshot, taser-induced heart attack or an intentional head-on collision.

A few words of caution: If you currently play football, do not see this film. If you have a youngster who wants to play football, definitely see this film and then forbid it. If you’re just a plain old rabid fan who loves watching the game, get ready to love it less. Other than that, “Concussion,” bad title aside, is a good time.

–Andrea Rouda
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.

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