It’s two in a row for movies that are great, bus piss you off! “The Big Short” certainly touched a nerve with me in the right way, and “Concussion” had just the same emotional effect. So, how does it stand up in terms of a movie?
Will Smith takes on the character of Bennet Omalu (that’s DR. Bennet Omalu!), a Pathologist who devotes his life to his work, and gets drawn into one of the most controversial sports stories of U.S. modern times. He makes a connection between the deaths of high-profile NFL players, and a previously-undocumented neurological ilness that critically, is being connected to the high-impacts of the game. Based on true events, the film follows his fight to seek truth in the matter, as those around him fear the implications of what may arise from going public with the findings. Especially when it comes to the most popular sport in America, and one of America’s biggest companies.
Just like “The Big Short”, it feels a little odd to see a biopic-style film based on such recent events, this all only took place about ten to fifteen years ago. But because the repercussions are still being felt today in the world of sport – most recently in Rugby, it brings everything that (at least mostly) happened into the light. I remember hearing about these allegations, but being from Ireland, feeling like I was witnessing it from the sidelines. So seeing this got me more informed on at the least, the sentiment of the debate.
And there are a lot of emotions going on here – steadfast determination, the unknown, fear, verbal aggression, uncertainty, and a thirst for the undeniable truth. Will Smith pulls off a scintillating performance that is much more subdued and serious than what he is used to. But it feels like a character that he knows well and wants to portray for audiences, so you buy into him being Dr. Bennet almost immediately. He delivers a subtle, but varied emotional range, and his moments of frustrated defiance in the face of threats or ignorance, are truly powerful. He was simply wonderful, but then again, there was some exceedingly good casting for this overall. Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Albert Brooks all perform really solidly and help to give weight and significance to their respective characters.
We can’t go too far of course, without speaking about the topic at hand, that being the concussion row in the NFL. Now, I can say almost without backing it up that all that was shown here either didn’t happen that way, or was tweaked for emotional context. That will always happen regardless. But it is insane to think the NFL – a company supposed to represent the players and promote the sport, denied factual data and instead hoped that it would simply go away to the benefit of their image. I mean, I can see them doing that, but not doing that for so many damm years. It is scary to think that players right now might be at the risk of their minds completely and utterly breaking down later on in life, even though they followed all the rules set out for them. Even for someone on the other side of the pond, that is kind of horrifying to me. Then again, the same debate opened up about Rugby, and some changes were made. But you cannot remove all the risk from a sport while keeping it entertaining. I think we still need to draw a sensible line, and only extensive data and surveying can achieve that.
There’s my quibbles, so what about the film? “Concussion” is if anything, as good as “The Big Short. Sure, it doesn’t have the killer cast or snappy editing style. But as for getting to the root of what is being discussed, they both reach it really well. You leave it having gotten an emotional and illustrative view of the debate that went on, how it affected lives personally, and in a well structured and well performed setting. I liked how it very rarely veered away from the topic at hand, keeping things focused and direct. The script also retains these traits, and is very tight.
Those unfamiliar to the Concussion Scandal will get a lot of information from this, and if it helps them to research the topic more, then the movie has succeeded at what it set out to do. I just wish there were more special features delving back to the time and showing how it really went down, but I’m sure a documentary in that style is either already out, or in pre-production. Either way, an excellent watch!
Thanks for reading!