Concussion DVD Review

DVD Review by Clayton Barnett

The Premise
Will Smith stars in Concussion, a dramatic thriller based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American Immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu's emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with one of the most powerful institutions in the world.

The Review
Will Smith delivers one of the performances of his career in this challenging film that tackles the devastating side-effects of America’s favourite game.

Sadly practically no one went to see it in the States, as the country, like the NFL, decided it was better to ignore the impact of the game - and the brutal hits - they love to watch. Which is a tragedy as the movie itself is a (mostly) captivating eye-opener for anyone who watches sport full-stop, especially us rugby and league loving Kiwis.

And kudos to Will Smith, who ditches his brash swagger for an intelligent, driven and quietly funny portrayal of Nigerian Dr Bennet Omalu. You never see the Hollywood star; the focus is always on Omalu’s dogged pursuit of science which is just fascinating. The underrated Albert Brooks is immensely watchable as his boss, along with great supporting turns from Alec Baldwin and Eddie Marsden.

Pity producer Ridley Scott didn’t stick to his plan to direct this after Exodus: Gods and Kings. Writer/director Peter Landesman (Parkland) was handed the reins and it shows this is only his second feature. Even at two hours the film drags, lacking a clear dramatic structure and seemingly afraid of really nailing the NFL. It probably didn’t help Sony softened the films attitude towards the game to avoid NFL protests. Controversial documentary League of Denial is a far more hard-hitting look at the still-ongoing concussion crisis.   

The Verdict
While writer / director Peter Landesman drops the ball at times, Will Smith is in career best form tackling the doctor who uncovers the NFL’s concussion crisis.

The Trailer

The Info
DVD Releases: 15th June 2016
Rating: M – Contains Offensive language and content that may disturb
Duration: 123 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin
Director: Peter Landesman (Parkland)

The Extras
To prepare for the movie, Will Smith and writer-director Peter Landesman observed autopsies being performed, including two done by Dr. Bennet Omalu.

Alec Baldwin, who plays a doctor in the film, followed and studied several prominent Pittsburgh doctors while preparing for the film.

Adapted from the GQ article "Game Brain", written by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

Filmed primarily in Pittsburgh, PA. as well as Oxnard, CA and other cities.

The actual scientific article that brought CTE in football to light is "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a National Football League player," published in Neurosurgery. 2005 Jul;57(1):128-34. The full author list is: Omalu BI, DeKosky ST, Minster RL, Kamboh MI, Hamilton RL, Wecht CH. An abstract of the article is available at the US National Library of Medicine website (PubMed) and the full article is available from the journal's publishers (for a fee).