Kyle J. Steenblik

Concussion is a Methodical and Meticulous Science Based Drama

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Directed by: Peter Landesman
Written by: Peter Landesman
Based on Game Brain by Jeanne Marie Laskas
Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks
Running time 122 minutes
Rated PG-13 for thematic material including some disturbing images, and language

4 stars out of 5Will Smith stars in Concussion, a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known.  Omalu’s emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world.  Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment

Concussion may be one of the better-made “based on a true story” films I have seen, in terms of methodical production and performance.  While it is apparent that dramatization for entertainment value took place in the scripting of this film, it does not feel over exaggerated.  For the meticulous and methodical pacing of this story there were very few significant highs and lows, it was very evenly tempered, almost monotone, yet still captivating.  With all around superb performances, especially from Will Smith, this film is a model of excellence.  It serves as a very welcome reminder after Smith’s most recent films that he has the ability to turn in convincing and nuanced performances.  Smith’s performance is bound to be the takeaway from this film, as the story itself, while fascinating, is in and of itself is nearly featureless and dreary, but none the less intriguing, however as far as performances go, I would hang my hat on Albert Brooks as the resilient comic relief.

Of the most intriguing notes in this film was the illustration of the scientific process, and rigorous examination of evidence.  It might be the science geek in me but watching a dramatization of lab tests and peer review is something that I quite enjoyed.  However, these portions of the film are really only the precursor to the more dramatic events when the study that revealed the cause and effect of chronic traumatic encephalopathy were published.  The results of this publication were intimidation from the National Football League, slander, and eventually being driven from his job and home in Pittsburg.

The film also contains something of a subdued romance story, it lends little to the overall narrative of the film, but it does add to the character of Dr. Bennet Omalu. Without this development, the character would likely not have evolved beyond a somewhat eccentric yet brilliant doctor and scientist.  While I personally found the relationship mostly lifeless, it served its purpose and served it well, so while I may have lived without it, the film would have suffered gravely without it.

I found watching this film to be much like watching a game of football.  I can recognize and admire the talent, and skill involved.  The outcome is critical for both parties, but only one will be able to persevere, who you root for is going to color how you view the outcome.  Once it is over, I felt satisfied, but doubt I will have any desire to re-watch it, but feel better for seeing it.

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