Friday, December 25, 2015

Movie with Abe: Concussion

Directed by Peter Landesman
Released December 25, 2015

There are so many films that deal with important moments in history, bringing them to the big screen so that stories can be told and that people don’t forget about monumental developments, achievements, or discoveries. It often takes a while for such stories to be realized and adapted, but sometimes recent history makes its way into theaters quickly. That’s the case with “Concussion,” the new film starring Will Smith as forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, who, in 2005, discovered that football players were receiving traumatizing concussions that threatened their wellbeing in a major way and took on the NFL to ensure that his research was not dismissed.

The film starts off from two distinctly different vantage points to frame its story. One is the culture of American football, a pastime that, more than any other sport, unites Americans, at least as posited by this film. One famous player, Mike Webster (David Morse) of the Pittsburgh Steelers, discusses the impact of the game as a montage of glorious football moments plays, and he is seen just moments later at a much lower and more disjointed point in his life. At the same time, Omalu is introduced, a breathing representation of the American dream, having earned numerous degrees since beginning his career in Nigeria. His chance assignment of Webster’s autopsy following his untimely death at fifty sets in motion a trajectory that puts Omalu at odds with every American who loves football unconditionally.

Smith earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance as Omalu, a considerably more toned-down character than Smith tends to play. His good nature shines through, and he feels authentic as a foreigner even though Smith is one of the most recognizable American actors working today. The film deservedly earned a spot on the finalist list for the Oscar Best Makeup field, making Smith look just different enough to appear wholly like someone else. Smith’s most valuable support comes from Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the supportive woman who will eventually become his wife and Albert Brooks, who steals all of his scenes as Omalu’s supervisor with his witty cynicism. The film, on the other hand, is not nearly as polished as some of its performances, telling a worthwhile in a very typical and uninventive fashion. The dramatization of certain football players’ mental anguish and the villainizing of the NFL, in particular, feel over-the-top, and keep this film from being a well-rounded realization of a true story.


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