The film tells the true story of Dr Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born forensic pathologist in Pennsylvania's coroner’s office, who made headlines when he discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and threatened to bring down the entire National Football League. He was first assigned to perform an autopsy on the legendary player Mike Webster, who's life spiralled into psychosis and self-destruction in his final months leading up to his death. When there were no physical signs indicating Webster's mental condition Dr Omalu invested his own money into extensive research to determine the true cause of death. What he discovered was a brain disease caused by years of heavy trauma to the head caused by playing football. When several other players fall into a similar psychotic state of mind, leading to their untimely deaths, Omalu exposes the systemic condition and enters into a David and Goliath battle against one of the biggest and most beloved organisations in the country – The NFL.
Criticisms could be levied at the film for being heavy-handed and melodramatic, however the structure of the story has been carefully driven, as to present an emotionally-charged narrative that is paced fluently with a genuine elegance to its stride. Each scene has a purpose and as the story unfolds the film builds momentum and evolves into a taut political thriller.
Will Smith is exceptional in the lead and he carries the film effortlessly. His performance is captivating and, as mentioned earlier, he was robbed of well earned accolades. I cannot vouch for his Nigerian accent in the film, only to say that it didn't seem feigned to me, but there is no questioning the sincerity and resolution of his performance. The ensemble of supporting players is impressive too with affective turns from Albert Brooks, David Morse and Alec Baldwin. Brooks never disappoints and he knocks this role out of the park. There are also a handful of other notable names in smaller roles, such as Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson and Arliss Howard, and their talent almost seems wasted given the small amount of screen time they each have. Nevertheless they bring added weight and credibility to the film... and its so good to see Reiser back on screen. He has reemerged in recent years with WHIPLASH and LIFE AFTER BETH and he also has a string of upcoming projects in the pipeline (welcome back Paul, it's great to see ya again).
I am not convinced that CONCUSSION is worthy of a Best Film Oscar win, but I am positive that it deserves the nomination. It's far from perfect due to its commitment to melodrama, but it tells and important story with an earnest heart and a lead performance that packs a wallop... and above all else, it's an absorbing movie-going experience.