Brain Damaged: Concussion Movie Review

By: Daniel Buser

According to a study done by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, American football is responsible for 70% of all sports related injuries. Also, an NFL (National Football League) player will have over 50,000 head collisions in his lifetime. More recently, the NFL has tried to be more proactive to try to protect their players, although this is not always the case. The 2015 movie Concussion, written and directed by Peter Landesman, sets out to tell the true story of how one man brought the dangers of football to light.

Trailer #1 (Photo and trailer courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment)
(Photo and trailer courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Will Smith plays Dr. Bennett Omalu, a neurologist who works at the Allegheny Coroner’s Office. Dr. Omalu performs an autopsy on Mike Webster, a former Pittsburgh Steeler featured in the National Football Hall of Fame. With Webster’s sudden death at the age of 50, no one knew the cause of his passing. That was until Dr. Omalu began studying Webster’s brain and found the brain disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head, which is a frequent occurrence in football. Little did he know that he had just angered one of the biggest companies in America: the NFL.

Concussion is anchored by an outstanding performance by Will Smith. He steals every scene he’s in with his comedic timing and emotional delivery. A particularly emotional scene shows Smith begging his boss to let him continue his research after his initial studies come back negative. Many of Omalu’s coworkers begin to turn on him as the result. Smith’s turn as Omalu could easily be argued as the best performance of his career.

Smith also has great chemistry with Alec Baldwin, who plays Dr. Julian Bailes, a man who helps Dr. Omalu understand the politics of NFL. A particularly memorable scene has Bailes explaining the political hierarchy of the NFL, something that confuses Omalu greatly. The result is an increasingly hilarious scene as Baldwin becomes more flustered with Smith’s lack of football knowledge.

However, both Smith and Baldwin cannot save Concussion from it’s terrible direction and atrocious script. It should seem that the point of this movie would be to find an interesting angle with an in depth and factual representation of the topic, but it failed to do so. Instead, the audience is given a over simplified, dumbed down script that never even scratches the surface of what the real story is. Components like a giant time leap leaves the viewers confused and puzzled. Taking the real life rival doctor of Omalu and turning him into a pointless comedic relief fails on both levels. It is a missed opportunity for a tense conflict, and as comedic relief he’s never really funny as joke after the joke falls flat.   

Additionally, despite the simplified plot, Concussion still manages to feel incredibly long at a runtime of 2 hours and 3 minutes. The time itself is not the offense, however, it’s how the time is spent. Long boring closes ups, pointless subplots, and a criminally underdeveloped love story left me to wonder if anyone actually took the time to edit and cut the scenes.

Although Concussion had a great performance by Will Smith, the overall execution of the movie was not done in a notable manner. It brings nothing new to the genre and it stumbles over the most basic of the genre convention. Although Will Smith’s performance was arguably one of his best, it is a true shame that his talents were wasted on otherwise a bad movie.   

Consequently, only the most devoted fans of Smith will be able to find any enjoyment in the 2015 movie Concussion.

Rating: 3/10