- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama
If you've ever watched American Football, the sport that looks like a combination of gladiatorial combat, rugby and mass wrestling, you'll probably be familiar with the physical trauma the players inflict upon one another.
The movie ‘Concussion’, based on a GQ article, examines the repercussions of those hard hitting plays through a melodramatic underdog drama.
The film's main protagonist is Nigerian-American pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith). After performing an autopsy on Mike Webster, a former football player who was considered to be one of the best in the game, Omalu is puzzled by Webster's behaviour before his death, and why he ended his life in the back of a rundown pickup truck.
When Omalu inspects the former footballer's brain, he finds splotches called tau proteins and degenerative brain disease generally found in older men. When yet another former football player ends up on his operating table, Omalu confirms his findings and decides to publish a paper on it.
He calls the disease CTE - chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a term that would lead to a David vs Goliath showdown between Omalu and the National Football League (NFL), the governing body behind professional football.
The article focused on Omalu's investigation, but that's not enough for this movie adaptation. Directed and written by Peter Landesman, it guides Omalu through various cliched story beats while switching between his professional and personal life.
A love story between Omalu and another Nigerian migrant Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is tacked on to the film, and it just seems like filler to prop up a story that doesn't really have that much meat to justify its running time.
Like in underdog sports movies, you know that Dr. Omalu will have a series of obstacles thrown at him repeatedly. After he publishes his findings, Dr. Omalu finds the NFL squarely against him, even as he is harassed and driven out of his job. However, he does find allies; notably his boss and a former NFL physician played by Alec Baldwin.
Smith doesn't do a terrible job in the lead role, but neither is it particularly convincing. He sports what is supposed to pass off as a Nigerian accent, and Landesman provides Smith with plenty of scene-chewing moments. It's undoubtedly an Oscar baiting performance, and Smith proves his versatility, but the character tests our patience. The movie version of Dr. Omalu is a little too perfect and honourable, and he just comes across as a little bland.
Landesman also repeats certain points again throughout the movie, and while the NFL are portrayed as the bad guys, there's no central villain who seems to behind the coverup. Omalu seems to be battling shadows, and even the bad guys sent by the NFL go soft after talking to the dedicated, single-minded doctor.
To its credit, ‘Concussion’ isn't just a movie about someone trying to uncover a conspiracy. It is also a movie about the immigrant experience and questions what it means to be an American. However, the film’s attentions are just too divided, and overall it doesn't leave much of an impact.
‘Concussion’ opens 14 Jan 2016