Review: Will Smith Takes NFL Head-On In ‘Concussion’
Will Smith’s ‘Concussion’ will certainly have lingering effects as one of the first real jabs, thrown by mainstream Hollywood, at the NFL’s safety disclosure policies.
One part immigrant song, one part underdog story and one part pioneering tale of the unspoken danger in professional football, ‘Concussion’ will certainly restart a very pivotal conversation in the state of safety in football.
‘Concussion’ takes its time with an artful adaptation of the true life story of the pathologist who had the fortune, or misfortune of discovering a deadly secret, one suppressed by the NFL and long ignored by sports fans. In Pittsburgh, highly accomplished and well-educated pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), feels the crunch of responsibility when he uncovers the hard-hitting truth about the effects of repeated concussions on the brains of NFL players.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, etc.) – 4.5
While a bit lethargic, I appreciate the slower pace of the film which really allows the cast the room to blossom and the director the time to make artful and nuanced visual decisions. The film manages to seamlessly interweave three different stories into one tapestry exploring everything from cultural identity, family, pride, to the power, responsibility, and even danger that comes with knowledge.
Will Smith makes good with an ambitious acting attempt assuming the role of Dr. Omalu, Nigerian accent and all. While you could still hear Smith’s signature voice bleed through from behind the accent in a few brief moments, he masterfully brings the high-achieving Doctor to life from inside out. For a majority of the film it’s easy to forget you are watching Will Smith, which is a very good thing. I would even dare to say that effort Smith puts forth bringing to life Dr. Omalu easily makes this one of his best performances ever.
In general the acting in the film was well executed. There was a palatable balance of dramatics offset by a dry, but appreciated, insertion of humor. While Alec Baldwin’s Dr. Julian Bailes does a significant amount to progress the film, it is Albert Brooks’ Dr. Cyril Wecht that really steals the scene with an inescapably dry wit and charisma. While Baldwin does manage to sneak in some emotional moments, his character is more so confined to being a bridge between the NFL and the scientific community. This is effective for the plot, but leaves Baldwin’s character a lot less interesting than the others. Smith’s love interest is played by the stunning Gugu Mbatha-Raw who didn’t really get the opportunity to truly push her acting chops, but she is definitely a name to remember nonetheless.
The film does well to dilute the issue enough to make it easy for audiences to digest, while maintaining the severity and sense of urgency of the discussion they are rekindling. Speaking of which, the second most notable and equally ambitious choice was the film’s pioneering and controversial subject matter. Given America’s long history with Football, this is a tactful and palatable critique of one of America’s biggest business empires.
While in recent years more people have grown aware of the increasing risk and occurrence of accidents or deaths of former and current NFL players resulting from long-term exposure to head traumas, the subject has maintained a low profile. The film covers multiple perspectives, giving the audience the choice to decide where they land on the matter. Although the film tends to lean towards the informative, it does definitely leave the audience with a sense of lingering concern and necessary action. At the same time, the film does well to show appreciation for the sport not discounting its cultural and economic value. This is precisely the type of film that garners the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences come Oscar season.
Entertainment Value – 3.5
‘Concussion’ is sure to connect with today’s audiences with its jarring subject matter and intelligent tone. While the film does have a traditional progression with a satisfactory climax and finale, the film will still have a lingering effect perhaps even spawning future unrelated, but similarly themed, projects. Not only is this a film that is important to watch for the sake of social awareness, but it is also a stunning credit to the immense talent of Will Smith and the supplementary cast.
‘Concussion’ is still a bit slow, perhaps losing some less art inclined audience members looking for more football and less discussion. While the action is sparse at best, the film really succeeds in terms of dialogue, character development and social awareness. The film really grows from every scene and it is fascinating to watch Smith depart from his typical on-screen persona, and take a risk with something far more complex and demanding. Add an all star cast to Will Smith on his A-Game and what you have is a recipe for Oscar gold.
Re-Watchability – 3.5
I would say that whatever side of the argument you may weigh in on, concussion is a must see film with a serious Oscar potential. I would definitely recommend this film as a must watch for both social and cinematic reasons.
Concussion will either be the first installment in a long chain of future films focusing on the unspoken dangers faced by players of all professional sports, or it will be lost amongst turbulent swells of other trending topics du jour.
Watch the official trailer for ‘Concussion’ below.
Written by Peter Landesman.
Directed by Peter Landesman.
A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Columbia Pictures presentation, in association with LStar Capital and Village Roadshow Pictures.
Cast: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Matthew Willig and Albert Brooks.
Running time: 2 hours 3 minutes.
I would definitely recommend this film as a must watch for both social and cinematic reasons. It has love, it has science, it has drama and it has social relevance. 'Concussion' is a well rounded film that dared to be ambitious on more than one level and succeeded. I would say that whatever side of the argument you may weigh in on, 'Concussion' is a must see film with a serious Oscar potential and what is, perhaps, one of Will Smith's best performances.