Concussion: Film Review
Cast: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Albert Brooks, David Morse, Alec Baldwin
Director: Peter Landesman
Based on the book Game Brain and a "True story", Concussion is a worthy but slightly overblown drama about the after effects of American football.
In Pittsburgh (all drab greys and dour palettes) Smith plays Nigerian pathologist Bennet Omalu who's on duty when Pittsburgh Steelers legend Mike Webster (a bloated David Morse) is brought in after apparently committing suicide.
But as the home-town hero is dissected, Omalu falls foul of the fact he's an outsider and that he doesn't watch or understand football. And when further NFL players end up in the mortuary, Omalu begins to feel he should speak for the dead with his proof that repeated collisions lead to life-altering brain injuries - despite the fact no one wants to listen.
Concussion is more a fumble than a touchdown to be frank.
Smith and fellow performer and love interest Mbatha-Raw are usually stars with immense charisma on screen and whose star-wattage usually brings an energetic level to the screen. Wisely dialled down, Smith is more of a dim bulb burning brightly in a film that's earnest but never quite manages to vault its ambitions of celebrating the American dream and overcoming the odds.
Despite a brilliant turn by Albert Brooks as Dr Cyril Wecht, Omalu's mentor who injects some life and some dry wit into the proceedings, this above the line TV movie never manages to fully get off the sideline. Baldwin also manages to give some life to an-off-the-page whistleblower but never soars.
A domestic storyline for Omalu in the form of his love feels shoe-horned in and is turned to when the drama demands a break rather than out of narrative necessity; equally brief glimpses of the players do little to build character before they end up on the slab where Omalu talks gently to them, leading the audience to feel nothing for their demise.
The true horror of the film is the fact these collisions continue to take place and that the NFL is apparently aware of them but refuse to warn players. It's here the dramatic meat of the story lies and the shock factor should have hit home, despite Concussion being over-stuffed with plot. Had it been streamlined and some of the drama benched, it could have been so much more.
But despite everything Smith does in a just above average performance, Concussion's desire to overly ram home the point with an overt over-use of head-crunching footy footage does nothing to further the cause and may have you leaving the cinema scratching your head before forgetting all that's passed.