HOLLYWOOD—There is a phenomenal piece of dialogue in the movie “Concussion” that resonated with me. “You’re taking on a corporation that owns a day of the week.” Wow, yes it’s something the spectator will take a moment to resonate with, but the National Football League is indeed powerful.
The sports drama starring Oscar-nominee Will Smith is a tale of a man who does battle with an organization that literally has millions of people watching football each week and billions of dollars is spent on the sport. Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu who exposes the dangers of physical and mental trauma the body suffers from the sport.
Smith really excels at nailing the nuances of the character he portrays. Without a doubt, it becomes indicative that he is committed to the performance, as a viewer you totally forget Smith is on the screen. The bulk of the narrative explodes when famed football legend Mike Webster (David Morse) dies, and Omalu makes a discovery that causes the NFL to fear the truth coming out. Morse is fantastic in the few moments that he does appear on the screen; I’d even go as far as pushing him as a candidate for a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
Our protagonist is placed at odds with the NFL who is willing to make threats and go to extreme lengths to ensure their dirty little secret is not exposed to the American public. His battle not only places him at odds with the NFL, but also in his workplace. His odd behavior has him constantly battling with his boss Daniel (Mike O’Malley) and he even finds himself questioning his determination for the truth.
The tender moments between Omalu and Prema Mutiso (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) present a bit of vulnerability to a character, who is so dedicated to his work, his social life suffers because of it. Prema causes him to see the light; that there is more to life than just work.
What is so impressive about “Concussion” is not only Smith’s ability to carry such a controversial film on his shoulders, but to be surrounded by a bevy of actors including Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Arliss Howard and a host of others who deliver. This is a man who is jeopardizing the food on the dinner table of a host of people. When the NFL gets news of the impending research that puts a spotlight on CTE (which creates massive problems in the brains) of multiple players who have committed suicide, a plan is fixated to keep the dirty secret locked away.
As a viewer, I found myself on this rollercoaster of emotions wondering what would happen if the NFL ceased to exist. What if football was no more? What would Americans do on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday? What many consider to be the greatest sport of all-time would vanish and those universities who rely on donations and money from football games: it’s all gone! I raise the question of rather my own father’s behavior could be linked to his career playing football? I even raise the question of rather it’s dangerous for my nine-year-old nephew to engage in the sport that is all about physicality. This movie causes the mind to THINK and that is a good thing in the cinematic universe.
To see the movie unearth the league’s ability to utilize the FBI and a host of others to ensure Dr. Omalu’s research never saw the light of day just raises the question of how powerful; impactful money is in the society that we live in? We all know money talks, but “Concussion” scares the viewer to seeing that if you plan to put the spotlight on something of epic magnitude, the end result may not be pretty.
“Concussion” is a movie that forces Americans to ask the question we’ve known since the dawn of time: just how dangerous is football, but even more important, are we willing to acknowledge those dangers for the sake of entertainment value?