Concussion

Starring: Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha Raw, David Morse, Mike O’Malley, Arliss Howard, Luke Wilson, Stephen Moyer, Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje, Eddie Marsan, Hill Harper, Richard T Jones, Bitsie Tulloch, Paul Reiser, Matthew Willig
Directed By: Peter Landesman

Right after I left the theatre, I received a call from a friend who then asked me what I’d seen, and how to describe it. My initial thought was, this is definitely not a football movie. I hope America doesn’t have that misconception. It happens to involve football, but in no way is this actually a football movie. This really is an activist movie, in the same vein as Erin Brockovich. However, this is nowhere near that caliber of film. Despite Will Smith’s best efforts, the film fails him.

Concussion is a frustrating movie, because on the surface, it looks like a quality effort. However, it has a really hard time stretching the events of the film over two hours. I wish the film had felt it didn’t need to be a two hour movie, because it didn’t use the time wisely. Mismanaged time. I would have actually been OK with a two hour film, if it had spent more time developing the relationship between Prema (Raw) and Bennet (Smith), because their relationship moves so extremely rapidly, that we lose the actual connection between the characters. I’m sure he loves her, but I have no idea why. Supporting characters are used more as either plot devices, or exposition devices. Alec Baldwin, for example, seems solely to exist to explain things for the audience. He’s a real person, who actually existed, but for the purposes of this film, he is an exposition device. Actually, everyone in this film other than Smith or Raw are either plot devices or exposition, or just not consequential to the film at all. Paul Reiser, for example, is barely in this film.

A lot of noise has been made about Smith’s performance, and even Smith has been better. He was better in Ali and The Pursuit Of Happyness. If he misses out on an Oscar nomination this year, I’m OK with it. There were better performances this year. Of the supporting cast, the only performance that stood out to me as memorable was David Morse as Mike Webster. I also found a lot of honesty in Matthew Willig’s performance, considering he is an ex-football player. I’m sure he’s terrified that one day, he’ll be in the same shoes as the man he’s portraying: lost, confused, and without options.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory too much, but a few examples of “misused time” would be the scene where Prema feels like she’s being followed home. It might have been a set up for her miscarriage, but the film went nowhere with it. In fact, at no point does anyone actually come and stalk them at their home, though there’s another scene that suggests Bennet is worried they might. There’s no follow through on it, so it just makes them seem really paranoid without ever truly establishing a cause.

I left the film understanding that Dr. Bennet Omalu did a courageous thing, and the work he’s done has truly contributed to society. However, the film itself is neither of those things, and likely will be forgotten about in a few years. There’s nothing here to suggest this film will feel important in five years, or will stand the test of time. Not even a relatively short period of time.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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