Concussion, directed by Peter Landesman is a film that struggles with both balance and pacing, and because of this doesn’t fully hit the mark on brining an important story to an audience. But this is a film that at its core has a wonderfully intriguing character that captures the attention and the heart, and is perhaps the only real saving grace of the film.
Concussion tells the true story of Dr Bennet Omalu – played by Will Smith – who was the man who brought the truth about what repeated concussions was doing to football players in the NFL. Shunned and persecuted by almost everyone around him, Omalu must fight to have is research seen, respected and utilised for the safety of a sporting intuitions main commodity – its players.
So when I talk about Concussion having balancing issues, what I mean by that is that the film tries hard to give time and focus to not only the story of how Dr Omalu was able to discover just exactly the kind of danger NFL players were in, but the film also tries to give time to show the personal side of Dr Omalu’s life. Unfortunately the film fails to give sufficient time to the latter, which unexpectedly then bled into effecting the weight of the main story.
So the main story of Dr Omalu’s work certainly and understandably gets a lot of time to develop. I was really interested in seeing just how he went about it and also seeing the constant struggle that he was put through. Such a story is undoubtedly interesting to follow. But just as interesting as the discovery that Dr Omalu makes, the main character himself is a deeply interesting, and perhaps the most engrossing element of the film
Will Smith does what Will Smith does best and that is be wholly watchable and likeable (helped by the fact that he is playing a wholly watchable and likeable character of course). But yes, despite an accent from Smith that is a little shaky at times (or maybe all the time, I’m not really an expert on the Nigerian accent) Smith still brings a real level of heart to his performance. He is so easily able to nail the lighter, jovial side of the character, but also nails it when it comes time to tug at the heart strings, it’s something that he’s more than capable of doing and well he does it.
But it is Dr Bennet Omalu himself that is the achievement of the film. Dr Omalu is person who doesn’t really fit in. He talks to his dead patients, he for the most part lives a secluded life and academically he is a man that puts everyone else in the room to shame. Yet there is an inherent kindness and welcoming demeanour to him, one that you can’t help but gravitate towards. It’s even more enjoyable when the beginnings of a new relationship start with the newly arrived Prema Mutiiso – played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Unfortunately however (and returning to that pacing point I was making) the film fails to explore him or their relationship in any meaningful way. It certainly suggests its importance, it just never follows through on it – which is strange because there are times in the film where it assumes you as the audience are all caught up in the large leaps they have made as a couple and fully understand where Dr Omalu is personally and then how that ties into the professional side of his life – which you are very much not.
The lack of balance and a proper amount of development for both these crucial elements to the story mean that it feels like an incomplete picture is presented to the audience, rather than a fully realised one.
The other part of Concussion that not only plays a part in harming the balance of the film but also harms the experience of watching it is the pacing that it implements. Concussion has a start stop way of doing things. The film will have long moments of where it takes its time to focus on story elements or characters, and then all of a sudden will begin moving at an unexpectedly increasing speed as it attempts to make some of the more dramatic moments feel even more intense by having them assault you with pace and information.
This results in a situation where you’ll be moving along at a reasonable pace and all of a sudden the film will take off and move fast, and just as you’re getting into it, the film will bottom out and slow back down to that previous speed that it was at. With such a back and forth it means that after a while, when you do return to those slower moments you are a little fatigued by it and so concentrating on those slower scenes becomes a little more difficult. Thus you have a situation where it feels like unproportioned amounts of time are being given to the various elements of the film and in the end you’re left a little lost and a lot disconnected.
What this all results in is a film that has a very important story and character who both deserve to be shown and explored, but ultimately neither have the impact they very much deserve. What Dr Bennet Omalu helped bring to light is important and people should absolutely be aware of it, and at the same time Dr Omalu himself is a fascinating and wonderful man who along with his family deserve to have their unique life be told in a fuller manner. So in the end Concussion more or less fails to achieve the symbiosis that it needed in telling these two stories in a balanced way, which is a real loss.
I don’t think I can recommend Concussion. It would make more sense in my mind for you to go and research and explore such an interesting and significant story by other means – sadly.
So what are your thoughts on Concussion? I’d love to hear them in the comments down below. Also if you’d like to keep up to date on when I post a new review then perhaps follow me on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. And so last but never least I hope you enjoy the rest of your week.