Concussion Review: Smith Vs the NFL

Director: Peter Landesman

Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw

The Overview

In Pittsburgh, accomplished pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith) uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play. (Source: IMDB)

The Good

Without his charisma-vacuum offspring in tow, Will Smith gives his best performance in years as Dr Omalu; he demonstrates wonderfully subtle physicality in this sympathetic role. I don’t think it is quite good enough to be nominated for an Oscar, although I know there will be some who might disagree. At times I was able to forget I was watching Will Smith, and was fully invested in the character. We’ll get onto the much-talked about accent later, but based on acting performance, Will Smith did a great job in this.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw is decent enough as Omalu’s love interest, although her part is shamefully underwritten; this unfortunately made the romantic subplot a bit tiresome, but again we’ll get to that.

As a big fan of American Football, this story really interests me, and whilst it might not have been conveyed in the most interesting way, the subject matter does make for a good basis of a story…if only it had been told better!

The Bad

As it might already be obvious from the fact I wasn’t fully invested in the good points about this film; I didn’t enjoy this one. It’s a real shame because it is such an interesting topic, it just isn’t conveyed in an interesting manner. It takes far too long to get going, and is incredibly repetitive. The romantic subplot did not work for me at all, and only seemed to distract from the main plot. There just didn’t seem to be enough material to fill a 2 hour movie and it shows. It would make for a very interesting 1 hour documentary but just doesn’t work on film. In fact check out the League of Denial documentary; it does a much better job at telling the story!

The lack of material means that some of the attempts at drama come off as a little heavy-handed, and it feels like there’s an awful lot of filler. As mentioned, Will Smith does a great job, and the supporting cast are okay, albeit very underused. However Will Smith might be the big draw for people seeing this movie, but he cannot carry the film by himself, and it severely drags in the middle.

Now we come to the accent, which really seems to have divided opinion! Personally I felt it was so borderline stereotypical that it just didn’t work for me. When he was toning it down, it worked fine, but for the large part it was a distraction, which is a real shame as Smith’s performance is great otherwise.

The Verdict

I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Concussion isn’t the in-depth character study it intended, it’s not as dramatic as it tries to be, not as interesting as the subject matter would have you believe, and it definitely isn’t the tense investigative piece that Spotlight was. Where the latter had an absolutely watertight script, and a fantastic ensemble cast, Concussion feels like it is without direction, parts are poorly written, and Will Smith is not enough to carry the entire film. It’s a real shame as I desperately wanted to enjoy it. Check out the documentaries and read the articles instead, it’s a better use of your time!

 

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.

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