By now, even non-sports fans have most likely heard about the “scandal” dealing with the NFL and concussions. What seems like common sense – that football players who suffer continual blows to the head over the course of several years end up with life-threatening head trauma over time – has only recently been acknowledged by the National Football League. Much like the big tobacco companies denying the existence of ill-affects related to their product, so has the NFL turned a blind eye to the consequences of theirs. Concussion (opening today) is the story of the doctor who helped bring this issue to the fore-front, and who forced the NFL to take action towards protecting their own.
Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) played a key role in identifying the existence of the problem. Former NFL players like Pittsburgh Steelers great, Mike Webster (David Morse), spiraled into depression and chronic illness – both mental and physical – due to the long-term affects of a series of diagnosed and un-diagnosed concussions suffered over the course of his NFL career. In Webster’s case, it lead to death. And he wasn’t alone. Several players had similar experiences…too many to be considered coincidence.
Just like many argue (rightfully so) that Veterans are not properly cared for after their years of service, the same argument is made about NFL players who are mostly discarded by the NFL once their playing years end. For several years, the league either suppressed or denied that there were any long-term issues related to playing, despite the science that suggested otherwise. Being a billion dollar organization, it is a bit sad to think that they would avoid this sort of admission, but imagine parents and children all over the country hearing that their favorite sport may end up shortening their life-span by 20-years or more…that would just be an equally devastating blow.
Unfortunately, the film Concussion deals with this story in a way-too-conventional way. For those that were familiar with this epidemic facing the players and the NFL, there are very few revelations to be found. It’s neither an enlightening experience nor an entertaining one.
Will Smith does fine work, but trapped in the confines of the film’s conventions, the role doesn’t feel too fleshed out. It takes the underlying message – that the NFL has been negligent and that the players deserve more – and it does nothing with it. Concussion chooses not to present itself as too cerebral, and the result is a film that, ironically, doesn’t hit hard enough.
Genre: Drama, Sport
Run Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw David Morse, Stephen Moyer, Luke Wilson
Directed by Peter Landesman (Parkland)
Opens locally on Friday, Dec 25, 2015 (check for show times).