Doctor Bennet Omalu doesn’t know much about America’s national sport, but that changes when Mike Webster dies. Mike Webster was a former star player of the American football team in Pittsburgh. It is up to pathologist Omalu to determine the underlying cause of his death. Omalu discovers something that not many people in the NFL (National Football League) will be happy about: brain damage. A conflict arises between the coroners and powerful parties within the NFL, but who draws the longest straw?
Sports drama Concussion is based on true facts, which makes it a biography. It’s up to Will Smith to carry the load and make Dr. Bennet Omalu look credible. And he succeeds. We see people doubting the good doctor which gives him a lot of frustrations. Nevertheless Omalu is continuing his investigations and is determined to convince the world that he tells the truth. Peter Landesman is both the director of the film as screenwriter, known for Kill the Messenger and Parkland. The film has some strong monologues, including the scene where Bennet Omalu introduces himself at a trial. Other roles are for Alec Baldwin, who takes on the role of former team physician Julian Bailes, and supports Bennet in his research. The third man who supports the research is Omalu’s boss Dr. Cyril Wecht, played by Albert Brooks. A smaller role is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who takes on the role of Bennett’s girlfriend. However, besides one good scene where she positively stimulates Omalu, she has little input. Therefore the romantic subplot in the movie fails significantly.
The films shows that American Football is ‘big business’. When pathologist Bennet – specialized in neurology – discovers something shocking, he just gets thwarted. Even the FBI interferes with the investigation and helps the football federation by demanding Dr. Bennet to deny his claims. Because football is money, and therefore it’s not strange they made the comparison with smoking, which is also bad for your health. The film begins very strong with a speech by former star player Mike Webster (David Morse), and he looks anything but great. As a counterpart, Dr. Bennet Omalu introduces himself and gives his opinion on a murder investigation in court. The connectionbetween these two situations becomes clear when Webster dies and Omalu must examine Webster’s body. His death is however not the only case Omalu has to work on, and therefore it is undeniable to deny a connection with the dangerous sport.
The part of the film in which Omalu involves other doctors to his cause, is the best part. All actors make a good performance and the film clearly highlights what’s going on. When the NFL starts interfering with the investigation, and oppose the doctors by denying everything, you hope to see a confrontation between the two fronts. Unfortunately there’s not true confrontation, and for quite a while it seems Omalu doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
The film certainly has its moments and it let you watch with interest for two hours. However, the film is never really memorable or surprising enough. That might be difficult when you have to work with a biographical story, but you because of the film you do get a different view of the sport and its dangers. The question is whether and how the NFL has dealt with Omalu’s claims after it got known. The film could have shown more of the former players who suffer from various problems. The scenes that give a glance on the effects of American Football, are too superficially. The characters are too flat as well. The film focuses too much on the research and not enough on the impact of that research, and the hypocrite opponents. Because of this, the film is more an inspiring personal journey of Dr. Omalu himself.
Concussion definitely isn’t a bad film. The actors have done a great job, but the characters remain a little too flat or have little to no input. The film has some strong monologues and it makes you look differently at the national sport of America: American Football. The big question remains: Does the NFL made a change in response to Dr. Bennet Omalu’s findings? As this remains unanswered, the film has become more of a personal journey of Omalu.