Following Spotlight and The Big Short, Concussion concludes 2015’s trilogy of “man vs. corporate machine” biopics. Concussion is also the weakest of the three films, as it relies most heavily on the importance of the subject matter to give itself significance. The conclusion surrounding Concussion is admittedly very interesting, but the journey to get there and the next steps after are much less so. Clocking in at just over 2 hours, there is not nearly enough depth or drama to justify its length. Granted, this is a difficult subject matter to adequately cover, mixing science and passion, but there is not a strong enough direction taken to make the movie truly engaging.
The film opens in Pittsburgh, where pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) demonstrates his considerable educational background and attention to detail. He has no interest in sports, but when a local football hero passes away with considerable deterioration and little explanation, Omalu attempts to find the reason. He discovers that football caused long-term brain damage, which pits him against the NFL, who have been covering this fact up for quite some time. Essentially, the first 45 minutes of the film involve the discovery and the remaining 75 minutes involve the fight. The discovery is queasy and the fight is tedious and the combination doesn’t leave a very strong impression.
Will Smith gives a very strong performance here, playing a real character and not just a derivation of himself. While the screenplay doesn’t provide enough material to make the character study relevant, Smith stays committed and really transforms into the role. The actors around him do a great job throughout, but none of them come close to matching to solemn reservation and concentrated energy that Will Smith puts into the movie. The arc isn’t as well defined as it could be, but the character avoids feeling cartoonish, which is a success in itself.
While the execution is mediocre, the story itself is interesting. The GQ article that the film is based off of is much more compelling, and offers much more detail. The indictment that the film gives is significant, and is capable of winning the audience to its side of the argument. The journey to get there is just rather lackadaisical. 5/10.