Will Smith places his bet on a biopic to get in the Oscars game.
Concussion proves to be an engaging drama thanks to deft editing. Footage of football players hitting each other like human cannonballs as cooing commentaries play in the background provides an interesting juxtaposition. The decision to focus on the characters’ reaction rather than play out the procedural CSI style is effective in humanizing the whole endeavor.
Will Smith’s understated performance provides emotional weight to the discovery of CTE. He dials down the likable cocky charisma that insulates him from box office flops and draws audiences to cinemas.
Dr. Omalu is a confident and religious man but not a self-righteous devout catholic. Alec Baldwin plays another important old man in a suit, but he does it well enough to become the disillusioned confidant of the pathologist. The rest of the cast in the sidelines are decent enough in providing different perspectives on the issue.
While Concussion does raise awareness on CTE, you can see the movie strain under the pressure of criticizing the most popular sport in America. Football is a wealthy institution and a giant corporation.
“There was never an instance where we compromised the storytelling to protect ourselves from the N.F.L.”, said director Peter Landesman in an article by The New York Times. However, he also confirmed that Sony lawyers deleted some material from the film, and leaked Sony emails showed that Concussion was altered to prevent NFL protests.
It’s not clear what scenes were deleted but it’s obvious that the movie glosses over the consequences of Dr. Omalu’s determination to get his findings recognized. The dangers presented are vague. In one scene, his pregnant wife is followed by a suspicious car that suddenly disappears and the plot quickly shifts to a heart-tugging moment. In a quickly staged scene, his boss gets intimidated by the FBI.
This prevents Concussion from becoming the whistleblower that it started out in the beginning. The fact-based drama devolves into an immigrant tale of a disillusioned man who once believed in the American dream complemented with a contrived love story. This subplot stops the main narrative dead in its tracks and the movie never achieves the impact of its aptly named title.
The movie highlights a hotly debated issue that many people aren’t aware of but looks away from the fact that CTE has been covered-up for years. Dr. Omalu is a compelling character, but the importance of his work is effectively muted. Concussion turns an important topic into an Oscar-bait biopic. But this isn’t the movie’s fault.
Sadly Concussion’s final image makes an accurate depiction of what the movie leaves us with – the truth is left to watch in the sidelines as the game goes on.
Concussion an aptly named movie and fact-based drama reduced into a standard biopic.