REVIEW: ‘Concussion’


  • Peter Landesman


  • Will Smith
  • Alec Baldwin
  • Albert Brooks
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw
  • David Morse
  • Rated: PG-13

In “Concussion,” Will Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Pittsburgh forensic neuropathologist whose work brings him in contact with the deceased former Steelers player Mike Webster (Morse). After researching Webster’s cause of death, Omalu comes to the conclusion that repeated blows to the head from football created a disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

As Omalu begins to review other possible cases of CTE, he has to also deal with the National Football League, which isn’t ready to admit any wrongdoing on their part for the lack of research.

There’s no doubt that the subject matter in “Concussion” is very heavy and when the film displays this topic it is effective in how eye-opening the disease can be. There are quite a few moments where the horrific nature of the brain disease is shown and it brings a lot of gravity to the situation.

On the other hand, though, as a dramatization, there were some things that noticeably detracted from the picture. During the movie’s two hour runtime, there is a bit too much emphasis Omalu’s personal life, such as his romantic relationship for example.

These scenes often brought the movie to a screeching halt and weren’t necessary to humanize Smith’s character. Much more time could’ve been dedicated to the research side of the story and given the movie bigger impact.

Another issue with how the film unfolded was in its display of how time passed. Upon some research, one can find out that Omalu’s work extended over nearly a decade in relation to the concussion issue, yet in the movie the transitions of time could have been much smoother. Sometimes there are events that seem to happen within weeks of each other but they’re actually months or more apart.

The highlight in “Concussion” is Will Smith’s performance as Dr. Omalu. Smith gives a convincing, passionate performance that is arguably the best of his career. Omalu’s shock, intrigue and dedication to his work and those who have lost their lives is all brought to the screen by Smith.

While Smith’s supporting cast was filled with talent, though, the surrounding characters weren’t as well written. Many of the characters who were NFL officials came off as over-antagonistic and dramatized to the point where they didn’t feel real. It’s a real contrast to another whistleblower-like movie from this year, “Spotlight,” which did this task much better.

Smith’s performance is spot on and the movie does give an important topic some much needed light. There are still plenty of flaws to go around, though, and these bring the film to a low 3 out 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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