Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Movie Review #364: "Concussion" (2015)

Ticket Price: $7.00
Director: Peter Landesman
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes
Image Source
A forensic pathologist named Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) discovers a neurological condition in former NFL players that have died or committed suicide, which has been attributed to repetitive head trauma. When the NFL hears of his findings, they do their best to cover it up and discredit him and his research. 

BigJ and I aren't footballs fans. Something about watching grown adults maim each other for entertainment while countless consumer commercials are repeated to the masses for several hours multiple days of the week really doesn't tickle our fancy. Knowing that we have a strong lack of interest in the sport, we weren't particularly looking forward to "Concussion." It sort of seemed like a no-brainer to us when we saw the trailer ad nauseum, showcased before each and every single movie for months on end. If you asked us if smashing heads against each other over and over was bad for the brain, we would without a doubt think common sense would say, "well, isn't that obvious?" In science, it's not enough to simply know that something is happening, but rather, to discover why is it happening. In life, it is also important that everyone participating in an activity fully understands the risks involved in whatever they are choosing to partake, in this case, American football. The bigger picture of "Concussion" is not how NFL players smashing their head against things causes brain damage because this should be fairly obvious; rather, what's important to take away is the NFL denied that repetitive head trauma caused brain damage and did everything in its power to convince the people it didn't. Also, that the NFL has or had a willful disregard for the long term health of their players, valuing the monetary aspects of the game and national entertainment value over safety and potential medical needs. As mentioned in this film, "20 million people on a weekly basis crave their product, the same way they crave food," so all that matters to them is keeping the players in the game at any and all costs to make "magic" happen.

We aren't exactly big fans of Will Smith. So many times, it feels like Will Smith, though extremely charming, is simply playing himself in different movies and different situations. Rarely, if ever, have we seen him immerse himself in a role to the point where Smith disappears and his character appears in his place. Luckily, in the case of this film, we really believed Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu. We never saw Smith putting on a pretend accent, we were experiencing the character of Dr. Omalu and witnessing his personal journey throughout the film. Smith is really great here, and we would even go as far as saying he got snubbed at the Oscars this year. Hell, we'd take him over Matt Damon. Albert Brooks, one of our favorite character actors, is also excellent as Dr. Wecht and offers up a great combination of dramatic moments and snarky comedy to lighten up a tough situation. As much as we like Alec Baldwin in this film, his accent was all over the place throughout his performance as Dr. Bailes, and distractingly so.

As with most true stories, the makers of this movie do take some license to add a lot of dramatics, and some of it does come off as manipulative or out of place. There is a character in the film named Daniel Sullivan, played by Mike O'Malley, who is so unnecessarily combative about everything when it comes to Dr. Omalu that it felt completely unrealistic. While researching this story after the movie, we found out his character is entirely fictional, so it makes sense that he feels unreal because he is. Even though we really liked Gugu Mbataha-Raw as Premo Mutiso, Dr. Omalu's girlfriend and eventual wife, some of their scenes together seemed to drag down the pace of the film. Her character is also involved in some fictitious situations that are added simply to evoke an easy emotional response from the audience, and though successful, again, these portions felt shoe-horned in and rather out of place. Overall, "Concussion" is an emotionally charged drama that is intriguing and informative, even if it's condemning one of the most sacred things to many Americans: the NFL. Since it doesn't affect us in the slightest, we enjoyed this movie quiet a bit and were able to see past any biases some viewers might have as football fans. Great performances, good writing, interesting subject.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 63%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

No comments:

Post a Comment