Concussion Review

“… the story itself is very important and it was entertaining throughout.”

Last night I watched Concussion and I liked it more than I thought I would. I have been putting off watching Concussion since it first came out in part because I thought it would be two hours of Will Smith doing a silly accent; luckily I was wrong. Concussion follows Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), a coroner who is wicked smart, who has to preform an autopsy on Pittsburgh Steeler legend Mike Webster. Trying to figure out the cause of Webster’s death, Omalu discovers that playing football causes rapid brain deterioration. After discovering this and naming the disorder chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Omalu then has to burden himself with the task of making the NFL acknowledge his findings; and of course this task is not an easy one.

Concussion is based on a true story, but it is a story that I’m sure not many people are familiar with (I sure as hell wasn’t). That being said, I think the movie did a good job of presenting the story in a truthful (I think) and also entertaining way. Of course I did see some issues with the story as it was told in Concussion. First of all, the film starts off by introducing Dr. Omalu in one of the most ham-fisted ways that I have seen. Of course Dr. Omalu is a very smart man, but the scene in which he is introduced seems to be shoving that fact down our throats. Sitting in a courtroom, seemingly having been called as a witness, Dr. Omalu takes about two minutes to run through his complete education history, and then the film makes sure to give us a very obnoxious audio collage of Dr. Omalu saying a bunch of smart things to this courtroom which has nothing else to do with the movie. This scene was not only unnecessary, but its presentation was very annoying. I get it, the man is smart. I already know that he is smart, because I know that the film is about him finding this very dangerous disorder in football players. If you needed to show me that he is smart, why didn’t you just show him cutting up a dead body and determining the cause of death? I mean, you already do that a bunch anyway, and at least then it would hold relevance to the movie. Or even just have a character go “gee, that guy is smart”, and then I would get it. To go along with this hilarious portrayal of an otherwise serious character, the score at the beginning of Concussion was so hokey I thought that I was watching a romance film from the early 2000’s. We get it, Dr. Omalu is a good guy. We already know he is smart, we can see that he is a nice guy, we don’t need this ridiculously happy or triumphant music when he gets his morning coffee. Moving on, Concussion does something that didn’t sit right with me and that was in the film’s “reveal”. I put reveal in quotes because everyone knows what the movie is about. The trailers outlined the plot pretty clearly, and a quick look on wikipedia and you will see what Dr. Omalu is known for. With that in mind, the film really seemed to stall on the process of Dr. Omalu finding out about CTE. If my memory is correct (and it often times isn’t) the culmination of discovery scenes (put together in a lovely montage, might I add) took about ten minutes start to finish. I understand why this was in the movie, of course this discovery was very important to the character, but I wish they would have given us the abridged version especially considering the other gripe I had with the story that I will mention later.

Something I noticed while watching Concussion was the fact that the film is very one-sided. Again, I understand why the film is this way and it didn’t necessarily bother me, but it was very noticeable. I’m surprised that the NFL characters even got faces; the way that they were portrayed in the film makes me think that the original draft had them sitting in a board room, heads covered in clouds of smoke from their many rich cigars, rubbing their hands together and laughing maniacally. I do understand that the NFL are the “villains” in this story, and I don’t condone what they have done, but the portrayal of the NFL as a whole was pretty laughable. This leads me into one of my final story-related points, the ending. Concussion, after spending two hours showing us how good of a person Dr. Omalu is and how bad the NFL is, ends in the most abrupt way that it could have. I’m not joking when I say that literally everything falls into place in the last five minutes of the movie. Dr. Omalu had a child, the NFL believes him, and he was offered a high paying job as “America’s Coroner” (or something like that). Much like the cartoonish portrayal of the NFL, the ending of Concussion is a little storybook for my tastes. It was weird having spent a large amount of time essentially being conditioned to think that the NFL were never going to budge on their stance, for them to suddenly go “Okay, you were right. Let’s invite you to a speech”. It was like the writer of the script was being called for dinner, and it was his favourite meal, so he had to wrap it up quickly. I’m not saying that I want the movie to be longer (although it probably could have been), but there are some things that could be shifted (like the discovery scene) to make more room for a more fitting end. And although Concussion didn’t feature Will Smith doing a funny accent (his performance was actually a highlight in my opinion), we did get Alec Baldwin’s take on “southern” which was hilarious. All that being said, Concussion is a very important movie in my opinion. It took an issue that is relatively unknown, and thrust it into the spotlight by having Will Smith tell you about it. The dramatizations of these tragic characters were very effective to see, and it really helped convey the gravity of the situation in my opinion.

Overall Concussion was pretty good. It did suffer from some issues that mostly pertained to the portrayal of characters, but the story itself is very important and it was entertaining throughout.

I give Concussion a B

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