Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
need for integrity
standing up for what you believe is right
difficulties of being an immigrant in America
dangers of head trauma / traumatic brain injury
denial, cover up / trying to discredit the message and the messenger
treating the dead with respect
Will Smith … Dr. Bennet Omalu
Gugu Mbatha-Raw … Prema Mutiso
Luke Wilson … Roger Goodell
Alec Baldwin … Dr. Julian Bailes
Bitsie Tulloch … Keana Strzelczyk
Stephen Moyer … Dr. Ron Hamilton
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje … Dave Duerson
Eddie Marsan … Dr. Steven DeKosky
David Morse … Mike Webster
Albert Brooks … Dr. Cyril Wecht
Matthew Willig … Justin Strzelczyk
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The Cantillon Company
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|Distributor||Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures|
“He will stop at nothing to expose the truth. / Based on a true story”
“Concussion” begins by looking into the life of Mike Webster. During his glory days, he was considered a revered and even legendary football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers
The year is 2002. Mike is not the same man he used to be. In fact, many have believed he’s started to go crazy. Sadly, Mike commits suicide.
It is here we are introduced to Dr. Bennet Omalu. He works for the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as the neuropathologist. Dr. Omalu is presented with Mike Webster’s body. As Dr. Omalu is performing the autopsy, he realizes that, physically, Mike Webster was relatively healthy. So why did Mike die the way he did?
Looking at Mike’s medical history, CT scans of Mike’s brain and brain tissue, Dr. Omalu discovers that indeed Mike committed suicide on account of a serious brain injury, which Dr. Omalu names CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), that can occur in football players who continue to play and “ram into each other” too many times, or after having a concussion, and continuing to play. Dr. Omalu concludes that CTE leads to a deterioration of the player (dementia, aggression, confusion, and memory loss) which leads to suicidal thoughts and actions.
As Dr. Omalu is presented with other football players who have suffered CTE, he publishes his findings, determined to persuade the National Football League (NFL) to perform further research on football player concussions. The NFL, however, does not want this bad publicity to come out, and so they do whatever it takes to silence Dr. Omalu and his research.
“Concussion” is a story of science and a story of sports. It is also a story of science, faith, and perseverance in the face of adversity.
Football is one of America’s most beloved past-times. Whether you watch football on your television on a occasional basis (like myself) or whether you are an avid fan, there is no denying the excitement, the thrills and the spectacle that football provides. We root for our team, we scream, we shout, and we emotionally involve ourselves in the game, much like with any other sport.
Football is also, though, a contact sport. One of the most aggressive contact-sports in the world. Players throw their entire bodies and aggression at each other, resulting in serious, sometimes even permanent or fatal injuries.
And this leads us to “Concussion.”
The Performances: The performance by Will Smith by Dr. Omalu was without a doubt one of the most powerful I have seen from Mr. Smith in a long time, the last one being “The Pursuit of Happiness”. He has shown incredible growth as an actor, from his time on the Fresh Prince of Bell Air to the present. My respect for Will Smith as an actor has been further strengthened by this performance. Alec Baldwin also plays a relatively strong supporting role, though I do wish he had a little more time to speak.
The Pacing: With a run time of over two hours, I have to say that for the most part I felt that there was a steady pace with “Concussion.” There were, however, some moments where the film did drag, particularly about an hour to an hour and a half into the film. This did, however, subside toward the end.
Violence: Moderate to Heavy. Violence includes a scene where Mike is shown electrocuting his leg and the results from this. We also see players commit suicide (one inhales ammonia, one is seen driving off the highway and the car explodes, a couple players shoot themselves). Many of these occur off-screen.
Language: The language was uncalled for and is one of the main reasons I have rated the film offensive. Language includes a**-hole (1), a** (2), f**k (1), sh*t (4), bull-sh*t (2), b**ch (1), S.O.B. (1), G*d (10), G**-d**n (5), h*ll (4), and two vulgar words related to female genitals. Jesus’ name is also taken in vain once.
Sex/Nudity: Sexual content is limited to a kiss between Dr. Omalu and Prema. Premarital sex is implied. Prema also mentions being raped.
Other: There are also multiple scenes involving blood, dissections and a few scenes involving alcohol
The Stance: The film, at times, feels as if it “demonizes” or demoralizes the National Football League. The NFL is shown, at times, as a giant, deceptive organization. They hide their concussion research findings from the general public, denouncing Dr. Omalu findings as non-credible. They attack Dr. Omalu’s employer at the Coroner’s office with false federal charges, etc.
At one point in the movie, the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Wecht, says to Dr. Omalu:
“The NFL owns a day of the week, the same day the Church USED to own.”
As I heard this, I couldn’t help but be reminded that, as Christians putting anything in this world above (entertainment, money or even people), or more important than, God is sinful and a form of idolatry. As it states in Exodus 20:3 (NIV)
You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
And in Exodus 20:4-6,
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
In “Concussion,” we watch as Dr. Omalu is persecuted for what he believes in. And though, at times, we watch as he struggles against those who laugh at him, and he loses a loved one, he ultimately does not give up in his research and in helping others.
As Christians, we will all have trials, tribulations and crosses we must bear. God will call us to do the unimaginable, the impossible, when we least expect it. When this occurs though, our heavenly Father will never give up on us when we go through trial or tribulations.
“Trust in the Lord with all your hearts, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, , and he will direct your path” —Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
“Concussion” is a well-written and fine addition to the library of sports docu-dramas. The performances by both Will Smith and Alec Baldwin alone are worth the price of admission. I do recommend “Concussion” for viewing. However, I would be cautious of the heavy use of language, violence and use of sexual content. I only recommend the film for adults and older teens.
Violence: Moderate to heavy / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.