In this gripping tale of football vs medicine, Will Smith gives a thoroughly transformative performance as Dr. Bennet Omalu — the man who uncovered the truth behind brain damage in football, and sought to make those responsible acknowledge the facts. Here’s five reasons to watch Concussion:
5. The science of CTE
Part of what makes Concussion so compelling is that director Peter Landesman gets the meticulous science behind the discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE, taking time to illustrate just how CTE occurs. It’s this groundwork that draws audiences deeper into the narrative, making it all the more frustrating when those responsible ignore the truth.
4. The fall of Mike Webster
Opening Concussion is the tragic plight of former all-star Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman, Mike Webster, who is first seen suffering from an undiagnosed strain of CTE, making him a shell of the former champion that he was. While David Morse’s performance as Webster makes up only a small fraction of the film’s story, the time we do spend with him is both beautiful and tragic, and becomes the ghost that haunts Bennet, driving him to protect others from this traumatic disease.
3. Big business and dramatic tension
Two of the biggest drivers of Concussion‘s drama are the presence of American football and the NFL. It’s here that entertainment and profits go hand in hand, neglecting the importance of player health. Landesman frames the business of professional sport as the villain of the film, creating a monster out of the corporate entity of the NFL. This villain has a great many resources at its disposal, and provides the setting for a David vs Goliath battle of great significance to modern sporting history.
2. Alec Baldwin – Thinking on his sins
Playing opposite Will Smith is Alec Baldwin as Dr. Julian Bailes, the former head team doctor for the Pittsburgh Steelers, whose career was defined by pushing athletes to their extreme. Following Mike Webster’s death, he becomes personally involved in the work of Dr. Omalu, and while uncomfortable with the findings, he must accept them as truth. Baldwin provides a crucial point of difference as the insider and is perfectly cast as a man looking for redemption.
1. Will Smith – A transformative performance
Will Smith gives a career-high performance as the Nigerian-born pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who unintentionally discovered CTE — something that would have major consequences for his professional career, and the sporting world. Smith portrays Omalu as a man totally committed to his work, and is unrelenting in trying to prevent more deaths caused by CTE. From the accent and social awkwardness, to Omalu’s love for the idea of the American Dream, it’s almost hard to believe that you’re watching one of the world’s most recognisable stars.
Image: Roadshow Films