Well it’s taken some time but finally I’m doing an actual movie review. No longer are we making fun of the movies I should have seen (though the list gets smaller and smaller) but instead having me preview a big movie especially in the sports industry. Now since basically none of you have seen this, I will do my best to avoid spoilers. But I’ll say it now, if you listen to our show or watch a lot about the NFL, “Concussion” is a must-see.
It focuses on Dr. Bennet Omalu, an immigrant who comes to America and becomes a coroner in the Pittsburgh area. They make it clear quite early that he is a bit eccentric but does so in order to really find out about the people he is investigating. The doctor goes slower than most and his co-workers don’t always agree with his methods but he knows what he is doing.
Of course everything changes when Mike Webster dies and Dr. Omalu, who knows nothing about football, looks to find out what killed Pittsburgh’s native son. His biggest strength, and biggest weakness, is that he doesn’t watch football. So unlike most, he looks to dig deeper and find out what caused this man to have all of these problems right before his death.
After going through tests on Webster’s brain, he begins to see the problem and starts meeting with other doctors in order to help support his claims. At the same time, we see more and more retired football players committing suicide (including Junior Seau) and dying all with similar head issues. It’s made even more powerful when you see actual game tape of the now deceased. With the evidence on his side, Dr. Omalu publishes his work with his life about to change.
Not only do many people start calling out the protagonist but also the NFL looks to shut him down. While at first you may wonder how he is the one who discovers CTE, it becomes quite clear that there was more at play than just scientific research. And unfortunately, Dr. Omalu didn’t sign up to be this martyr. He just wanted to help people while starting his own family.
When the movie really kicks into gear is when you see the dark side of the NFL. Let’s be clear, the League does not come off well here. While I’m sure some things in the film are dramatized, the Chairman of Sony Pictures, Tom Rothman, told our show earlier that they followed the timeline and facts very carefully. And if so, you see the NFL making a mockery of the doctor’s work, using the FBI to get at his friends and even scare his wife. After everything that happened last season, I’m sure the League won’t like its image after this.
Will Smith does a fantastic job portraying Dr. Omalu especially with a man who goes through quite a journey emotionally. Alec Baldwin was a great Dr. Julian Bailes who becomes a necessary friend in the fight against the NFL. Plus Albert Brooks adds a nice comedic edge that you might think would be a negative in such a dramatic film. But really it’s exactly what you need because all these people you hear about dying actually died. When that reality hits, you need something to help lighten the load. The only main issue I had was the love story and while Gugu Mbatha-Raw does a good job of playing the foil for Dr. Omalu, sometimes it takes away from the main drive of the movie.
When it comes down to it, “Concussion” is very affective in illustrating the changing image of the NFL in the new millennia. The way that they try to discredit and destroy this innocent doctor really backs up what many people think about the League today. It even fits in well with all the stadium chaos as all the backdoor actions of the NFL are in full effect in this film. But yet, just like in real life, people still kept watching football. Yet the movie still does exactly what it needs to do: show us what started the CTE investigation and why it has become the biggest black eye on football today.