Concussion2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Bennet Omalu is an extremely likable character. A pathologist with seven different degrees currently working on his eighth, he is a walking foundation of Christian morals and human qualities. He is not your average pathologist. He emphasizes the why rather than the how. To make that a little clearer: Cardiac arrest could be the how, but anything that could have potentially led to cardiac arrest is the why.
Will Smith captures this character phenomenally. His naturally compassionate performance melds with his resolution into the accent and mannerisms of the character, an immigrant from Nigeria, to brilliance. The title refers to Omalu’s main concern in the film: covering up the NFL’s cover-ups and proving that concussions have indeed damaged the lives of football players. Some of what we see here feels disturbingly real, and indeed it is. What’s even more real and frightening about Omalu’s study of concussions is that it’s all largely pointless. At the very beginning of the film, we see Mike Webster initiate a Newtonian cradle. The act symbolically represents the unfortunate outcome of all of Omalu’s gatherings: no matter how much evidence he finds that the concussion epidemic is absolutely dehumanizing, football is far too powerful a sport to be sufficiently affected by those findings.
The connection we make with the character of Omalu, as well as Smith’s portrayal of him, is the best thing “Concussion” has to offer. It could have been a great film, but it’s only decent thanks to its script. Peter Landesman, who also serves as the film’s director, must have seriously studied how to write a screenplay. It’s incredibly formulaic. It strictly adheres to the tried and true Syd Fields structure, which means that the story takes a while to get going. In fact, it initially appears to be a film about autopsies on serial killers, not football players. We see several cutscenes showing the mental breakdowns of various football players, ostensibly as a result of their concussions. These scenes completely change the mood of the film, especially when they follow equally irrelevant scenes depicting the relationship between Omalu and his wife. “Concussion” makes it very clear that it is a Hollywood film. It is certainly not particularly well written, but considering Smith’s performance, it is definitely above average.