Will Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu

Reel Reviews: Concussion doesn’t cushion the impact

Taylor and Howe say, “Will Smith is a good actor and Concussion is a fine film."

  • Dec. 31, 2015 5:00 p.m.

In 2002 forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) conducts a routine autopsy on former National Football League (NFL) football player Mike Webster (David Morse), where he discovers neurological deterioration that is similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

Conducting another autopsy on another NFL player who had committed suicide, Omalu found the same deterioration in the brain.

Omalu names the disorder Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and publishes his findings in a medical journal, starting a war of words with the NFL, who deny his findings and that there is a concussion problem at all. The continued premature deaths of other NFL players attest to the reality.

We say, “Will Smith is a good actor and Concussion is a fine film.”

TAYLOR: This is one of those stories wise audiences will find predictable.

Of course Dr. Omalu will find that repeatedly smashing our heads together is damaging. Of course the NFL will deny it. Of course Dr. Omalu will be hated by hooligans and threatened by corporations.

Finally, thank goodness, he didn’t give up the fight, for what good it has done: not much. Still, the film is well made.

HOWE: It is a well made film. Smith does what he does best and that is act, rather than fight his way through some cheesy action movie. His performance and Nigerian accent seem believable, but I don’t think that, or the movie itself, is Oscar worthy. On the other hand, there is the normally slimy Alec Baldwin, who for a change I enjoyed in this. Is there maybe a small chance of him being nominated for supporting actor?

TAYLOR: Alec was fine. He’s a professional. I don’t know that any particular aspect of this film is worth an Academy Award, but Smith is the most impressive.

The problems I have with the film are probably a result of being able to recognize the story being told everywhere, all the time. I felt that not much happens beyond the discovery of CTE and the lack of any real conclusion also leads to a general dissatisfied feeling.

HOWE: I found it wasn’t just a movie about football and the dangers of it, but also it’s one man’s journey, being true to his convictions and standing up to the big corporations.

For a movie that is just more than two hours it went by pretty quick, unlike an actual football game that just drags on.

– Taylor gives Concussion 3 coverslips out of 5.

– Howe gives it 3.5 helmets out of 5.

– Reel Reviews with Brian Taylor and Peter Howe appears in The Morning Star every Friday and Sunday.

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