Concussion Early Review

Concussion

 

Outrage at American institutions seems to be very fashionable this Oscar season. We’ve already had Spotlight’s damning indictment of the Boston Catholic church as well as Adam McKay’s furious attack on Wall Street in The Big Short. Now comes the Will Smith-starring Concussion, targeting the NFL for its prolonged denial that playing American Football could lead to long-term, life-ruining and even suicide-inducing mental problems. Peter Landesman’s film is not as fiery as the two mentioned above, but it’s still a solid and engaging examination of Americanism and the corruption of big corporations, whilst also proudly wearing its love of science on its sleeve. 

Smith plays Dr. Bennett Omalu, the neuropathologist that discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (brain damage caused by repeated head-on collisions) in football players. Importantly, and also inviting further comparison with Spotlight and The Big Short, Omalu is an outsider, a Nigerian who moved to America for work, easily finding employment thanks to his plethora of incredibly impressive degrees. No one in America wanted to consider that the nation’s favourite sport was lethal to its players, themselves heroes in the eyes of the public. Omalu faces opposition to his findings not just from the NFL itself, but also from angry fans, including one his colleagues, who forces Omalu to fund his research into CTE himself.

Smith gives his best performance in years as Omalu, deftly playing the total sincerity of the man without descending into schmaltz or a saintly caricature. Omalu himself is not a particularly complex character, but Smith imbues him with life in a way that reminds you why he became one of the world’s biggest movie stars. Even when competing with an overpowering score and some choppy editing, Smith’s charisma and star power are in full force here, especially refreshing after a few years of films like After Earth and Winter’s Tale. Heading up the supporting cast, Gugu Mbatha-Raw feels slightly wasted as Prema Mutiso, a fellow Nigerian migrant and medical practitioner who lives with Omalu out of necessity when she first moves to America before ending up marrying him.

In focusing on the researchers behind the story (Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks also appear as a team doctor and a science academy chairman respectively), Concussion achieves its greatest success. Not only are its heroes scientists, they are, by any other movie’s standard, ‘mundane’ scientists. Landesman manages to make the scientific process entertaining, even when it just includes poring over hundreds of peer-reviewed journals or looking at various near-identical slides under a microscope. However, despite Concussion’s love of science, and Omalu’s refusal to take anything at face value (he’s more interested in the why than the how of death) the film totally shies away from the pressing question of Omalu’s faith. Seeing as his profession and passion means he rejects received wisdom, a clash of these principles and unswerving Christianity would have been fascinating, but these beliefs go entirely unquestioned throughout.

Towards the end, Concussion becomes too hokey by half, with the appearance of the ghosts of the football players who ended up killing themselves totally at odds with the clinical realism portrayed up to that point. Yet, for the most part, Smith saves the film from its own poor decisions, creating a character you enjoy rooting for. It’s not enough to make Concussion a real Oscar contender, but watching one of the planet’s favourite stars give a performance worthy of his talents is almost worth the ticket price alone.

 

3/5

Written and Directed by Peter Landesman

Starring; Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin

Runtime: 123 mins

Rating: 12

Concussion is released in the UK on 12 February 2016

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One thought on “Concussion Early Review

  1. Peter Mandlesons best film yet, for a vampirate (a vampire pirate) (I read a book called vampirates once) (it was ok I’d say) (I mean if I had to review it is say:
    Combining pirates and vampires is an interesting, if peculiar, idea, and one that holds some promise. But that promise is not fulfilled here. The story is entertaining in a pleasant sort of way (perhaps not what you’d expect when you hear it’s about vampires and pirates), but there’s a notable lack of action, given the subject matter: one brief battle scene where the pirates grab the loot from a slower, poorly manned ship. Mostly everyone, pirates and vampires, is … nice. Though the series is called VAMPIRATES, in this first book the vampires don’t do any pirating — they just float around in a sort of vampire cruise ship with weekly feasts. And the ending, rather than the cliffhanger you’d expect in a series opener, is rather anticlimactic.

    If there’s not much action, there is a lot of confusion. The book reads like something about the 18th century, but the novel is actually set some 500 years in our future. And though there’s nothing futuristic other than the date, it does yield some surprising anachronisms, such as Connor responding to the offer of a cigarette with, “No, that’s cool.” By the end there are many unanswered questions: Why does the vampire captain protect Grace? Why does the food keep putting her to sleep if it’s not drugged? How do they get the food when they don’t seem to put in to shore? These questions may be answered in future volumes, but from the way the author seems to drop plot threads, it’s just as likely they won’t be.)

    Now where was I… Something about Peter capaldi I think, best actor to play doctor who since David remnant ny far. And that’s saying something coming from me baca use I really liked David remnant, especially toward the end of his run where things started getting really existential and serious, especially the episode where he saves the people on the Mars base from the water mouth gang even though he shouldn’t because that part of time is reserved for invited guests only. The good thing about that episode is it shows his sturggle to do right even when doing right sometimes means letting some people die and then at the end he said what have I done after the gal kills herself to correct the time and that part is like proper moving I think. That’s where they let it slip see because after that they do over to Matt smith who was just a bit childish and kiddy to me after lovely David and his lovely hair which was so serious and existential and serious which is why I have not really watched and of Matt smiths doctor who series after the first few because the just Duden hit the right notes that Nevis tenant dod. But I have hear that meta capaldi has gone back down the serious route so mauve I should get back to watching doctor who. So my question to you is… Is Petra Garibaldi’s doctor who worth watching after the disappointment of Matt smith in contrast to lovely David remnant?

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