Two trends I have noticed in film this year: a penchant for one word titles and a sound track that begins before the first image hits the screen. Peter Landesman’ s ” Concussion” is a bio-opt that is worthy of a few accolades while following these trends.
Will Smith is incredible, the best I have ever seen him. As Dr. Bennet Omalu he speaks like a Nigerian and mimics a facial expression I have seen on a Nigerian friend, a sort of disbelief. I was in awe at how effortlessly Smith became Dr. Bennet Omalu. Smith’s accent coach may have a different story, but wow. Once he addresses the corpse and begins his work as coroner, we never see the movie star again. The almost saintly character of this Ibo chieftain’s son inhabits the screen.
His story needs telling not only for the brains and lives lost by protein damage or CTP (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) ,but for the future players of football to know the risks. His story needs telling because it is an immigrant story. This brilliant and multiple-degreed Nigerian became a U.S. Citizen in February, 2015. He does exemplify everything it should mean to be a liberal American: curiousity, idealism, passion in the pursuit of truth, kindness, yet stubborn persistence in attaining goals, and a willingness to share knowledge for the benefit of the community. His religious faith and his African wife, Prema, (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) bolster him and direct his values.
It is a story for our age. He says that America was right under heaven in his childish hierarchy of nivirnas. What Omalu finds is something quite different. We can learn from this. Ormalu’s final ” Forgive them; forgive yourself” brought tears to my eyes. A scientific saint for our times who adjusts his desires and his ego ! His speech to the NFL (National Football League) spoke of “the beauty, grace and power of the game.” ” It is a mindless, violent game, and then it is Shakespeare.” He said that “the dead had given him the dangerous gift of knowing. A football player does not know that he can lose his mind.” Roger Godell, the NFL President, hears Ormalu’s “by dying they speak for the living.” The cadences of his sentences are reminiscent of Achebe’s masterwork “Things Fall Apart”. Other cultures have much to teach us. To only “follow the money ” is crassly counterproductive, and sadly too American.
Albert Brooks brings a wise, yet comedic air to his character, Dr. Cyril Wecht. As Ormalu’s superior, he apologizes for not doing enough for him. The loyalty given to him by Ormalu’s proves differently. The FBI ‘s abuse of power is scary.
David Morse shows his acting prowess as the retired Steeler’s football player, Mike Webster. It is hard to watch his suffering, which sets the stage for three others’ pain and violence to follow. And Alec Baldwin seems perfect for the team doctor, Jullian Bailes. When he calls Ormalu ” a righteous son of of bitch” , we know that changing sides may not offer him enough redemption for his hasty signatures. It is true tribal knowledge that if you know, you must speak.
“History laughs at those who deny science” is the real theme of this film. Burden of proof and controlled studies and harassment and scare tactics are tabs in the outline. See Landesman’s film for fine acting and a modicum of suspense,and for an examination of American consciousness. This film had my attention and the science is as cool as the scientist Doctor Bennet Ormalu. I needed this film to boost my faith in mankind. And as Dr. O reminds us, ” Need is not weak. Need is need.”