Starring: Will Smith and Alec Baldwin Director: Peter Landesman
Concussion is a film which takes place in Pittsburgh, PA in the early 2000’s. Will Smith plays real-life doctor Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist from Africa. The film begins with the tragic death of Mike Webster, who is shown in the beginning of the film suffering from various mental disorders including paranoia, dementia, bipolar disorder, and strong head pains. After Mike Webster’s body winds up in front of Dr. Omalu, it leads him down a rabbit hole ending in the discovery of “Chronic traumatic encephalopathy” or CTE.
The story surrounding the film is interesting but very familiar, as these events that take place in the film are very recent. The film is based in part on a 2009 magazine article, and article Will Smith portrays Dr. Omalu as a cheerful, educated, polite, and deeply religious man who is pushed forward by his convictions to bring CTE to light and to the NFL’s attention, as more players either tragically die or commit suicide as a result of their CTE symptoms.
Will Smith is engaging and subdued in this film, and plays his part well. His African accent does slip from time to time, but overall he is consistent within his character and is very enjoyable to watch in this role. Alec Baldwin portrays a physician who was the former on-staff doctor for the Pittsburg Steelers, and his role and other supporting roles are serviceable. Perhaps the more important roles are played by Mike Webster and other football players who have the task of demonstrating the horrible effects that CTE have on them and their families.
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Verdict: Will Smith is as entertaining and charming as always, but this is perhaps not his best work. The rest of the cast does a good job, but the writing and some of the direction becomes inconsistent and overly dramatic. I have found this problem to be common with biographical films. Overall, I give the movie a 6.5/10.
Traumatic Brain Injuries:
The dramatic action in Concussion surrounds the effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). TBIs range from relatively minor to completely incapacitating injuries. However, because a TBI changes the way that the person can react to each of the situations that he or she encounters in daily life, even a relatively “minor” injuries can significantly affect a person’s life.
The best analogy to explain the effect of a TBI is that a brain injury changes the reactions in the brain just like changing the water flow of body of water. If the injury is very large, it is like changing the flow of the Mississippi River. If the injury is relatively minor, it may be similar to changing the flow of a small stream. However, regardless of the size of the river, if left unchecked for long enough, both will have a massive effect on the landscape. Remember, because of the amount of time involved, even the Grand Canyon can be carved by a very small river. If left unchecked for long enough, even “minor” brain injuries can have a dramatic effect on a person’s relationships with others and feeling about themselves.
Unfortunately, many times, brain injuries go undiagnosed. A person suffering with a TBI can have very significant functional deficits without any findings on diagnostic tests such as CT scans or MRIs. However, learning about the effects of TBIs and developing coping strategies are essential in maintaining a good quality of life.
Chris Anderson and Chris Carver