For Reel

Concussion (2015)
January 7, 2016, 10:40 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Peter Landesman
2.5 Stars
ConcussionConcussion tells the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), a forensic pathologist who discovered that Pittsburgh Steelers star Mike Webster (David Morse) suffered extreme brain degeneration due to repetitive head trauma. What follows is a whistle-blower story following the ever-noble Omalu seeking to make his voice heard over the deafening sounds of the NFL. Director Peter Landesman tastefully (read: tediously) plots his narrative through the various machinations one would expect–the music cues can be predicted, the setbacks and victories all complying to a Screenwriting I idea of how to tell a hero’s story. But to tell this story so inoffensively is its greatest detriment. Even if it makes the right points, it is so lacking in confrontation that it feels like it lets both the NFL and the entertainment industry off the hook. Omalu himself is characterized as so saintly that there is no venom or anger against the oppression he faces, and instead this is a story of a man who goes through all the hoops that it takes to be a successful American and achieves them because–by God–that’s what America is all about! One wishes Landesman (and especially Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the hacking scandal showed had a desire to make Concussion less condemning of the NFL) was more willing to mine for the irony of Omalu’s American story against a film plotted with oppression, dehumanization, and corporate bullying. Furthermore, what really damns Concussion are the absurd scenes in which the ex-NFL stars are rendered as zombified monsters, complete with a horror movie soundscape to back their maniacal outrages. In these scenes, Landesman suggests that concussions render one an angry, suicidal brute, which is a more contestable case to make then the story about how the NFL purposefully covered up the extreme cases in which this did happen. To see a film get this type of story right, notice how Spotlight doesn’t suggest that being a priest encourages one to fondle kids, but rather that the Catholic church made it maddeningly easy to do so.

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