story of a brilliant Nigerian immigrant who made it his mission to expose the
dangerous after-effects of playing football, Concussion wouldn’t be the movie it is without Will Smith in the
leading role. He brings more than conviction and a persuasive accent to the
performance: it’s that effortless command of the screen that makes him a bona
fide Movie Star.
Smith plays a
tightly-focused forensic neuropathologist who works in the Pittsburgh coroner’s
office, alienating his less gifted colleagues as he searches for answers in
each autopsy he performs. When he poses troubling questions about a former
football hero’s self-abused body, he opens a Pandora’s Box of inquiry into
football-related injuries…and unwittingly makes himself the target of misplaced
anger and derision.
While the story
is both interesting and revealing, director Peter Landesman’s screenplay
eventually becomes didactic and loses its dramatic drive. The filmmaker is
smart enough to avoid making his hero a man without flaws, but the David and
Goliath story of an obscure doctor taking on the all-powerful National Football
League leaves little room for suspense.
Cast as Smith’s mentor and
protector in the coroner’s office, Albert Brooks reminds us what a fine actor
he is. He manages to bring a touch of humor to the role but it’s his honesty
that makes the character resonate so strongly.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and an almost-unrecognizable David Morse lend able support.
I regret that
director Landesman and his cinematographer chose to shoot so much of their film
in macro-closeups, the kind where you can count the pores on an actor’s face.
Does he think this approach heightens the impact of a scene? What ever happened
to medium shots?
magnetic performance and the provocative subject make Concussion a decent-enough film, but it’s more notable for its
intentions than its results.