So after all the hype leading up to its release, I finally watched “Concussion.” Solid film. Fair warning, if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t read this piece. Tons of spoilers. For those of you that have, let me know if you reacted differently than I did after seeing the film.
Going in to seeing the “Concussion” movie, I expected to be exposed to some new information or inside perspectives on how long the NFL actually knew about the long-term effects of concussions and what they did to cover up the facts. While “Concussion does shed light on the effects of Chronic Traumatic Encepalopathy (CTE), it doesn’t really expose anything that we didn’t already know; mostly that the NFL knew concussions were an issue and tried to silence anyone threatening that. They gave away that secret in the trailer.
The movie felt more like a piece of immigrant patriotism than it was about head trauma. While Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research could only be conducted on deceased former NFL players, that was really the only link to football that drives the story. In other words, the vehicle of persuading others that the protagonist had all odds turned against him was the real story. The concept of proving that the effects of CTE were real could have been replaced with anything. It could have easily been replaced with a medical salesman’s struggle to push a new technology. Oh wait, they made that movie already.
Wait, Will Smith starred in that movie already: The Pursuit of Happyness.
“Concussion” is an immigrant sports-related version of The Pursuit of Happyness.
Now, in all fairness, the acting was good and there were some powerful scenes. Will Smith was good as always and had his signature “Mad Will” scene where he destroyed some drywall with a 2x4. David Morse made a great Mike Webster. Alec Baldwin was solid as Dr. Julian Bales but it’s hard to forget that you’re watching Alec Baldwin. No “getting lost in the character” there.
It was disappointing that the climatic victory at the end of the movie was the NFL acknowledging that CTE was a real thing. As a viewer, I’m left unsatisfied. There was nothing about reform. Nothing about increased helmet technology. Nothing about the myriad lawsuits currently pending against the NFL as a result of this research having been validated. It was even more disappointing just before the final credits when the screen read that the NFL was never required to disclose what they knew about concussions and when. I guess I stupidly assumed that the film makers would be as bold in their depiction of the story as Omalu actually was in living it.