The true 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.
Alec Baldwin, 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?
Smith’s magnetic performance and the provocative subject makeConcussion a decent-enough film, but it’s more notable for its intentions than its results.