concussion

When tackling any real life story, a film must decide what not to include just as seriously as what it does include. In that vein, Concussion wisely focuses its investigation of the long-term ravages of football on the doctor who identified chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Bennet Omalu (played with the utmost nobility by Will Smith). On the other hand, when providing examples of former players who have succumbed to CTE, it does not know when to stop. The cautionary tale of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster (David Morse), reduced from Steel City hero to homelessness, is powerful enough to establish the message for the whole movie. But then Concussion proceeds to show the same tragedy in the cases of Justin Strzelczyk, Andre Waters, and Dave Duerson, and the overall effect is more numbing than inflaming.

This is a shame, because otherwise the film actually manages to wring drama out of scenes dominated by examining medical slides. Omalu’s fight is so obviously right, and he is bolstered by esteemed colleagues (Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin) and a supportive wife (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). His battle could be too virtuous to be dramatically interesting, except that it is very real and his opponent is so outrageously opposed to the truth. It may not be the zippiest of narratives, but it is certainly rousing in its conviction.

Advertisements