Like The Insider and Erin Brockovich, Peter Landesman’s Concussion (B+) depicts an individual’s courage in standing up against a real-life institutional cover-up. In this case, it’s an immigrant pathologist versus the National Football League in terms of who knew what and when on the issue of head trauma to players causing specific and unusual side effects at a relatively early age. It’s a film the NFL doesn’t want you to see. Despite its takedown of one of the nation’s pastimes, it is nonetheless a film about faith and the American dream. Smith’s sensitive doctor communes with the dead through his job at the Philadelphia coroner’s office, and his perpetual attention to detail prompts him to look deeper into the case of a famed football center who lost his mind before dying. From there, his findings escalate. Lifting this effort above its message movie trajectory is an absolutely exemplary performance by Will Smith that plumbs notions of science, spirituality and destiny. Like Liev Schreiber’s character in the recent Spotlight, he’s the outsider it takes to reveal an inconvenient truth. Albert Brooks and Alec Baldwin are strong as unlikely allies, but it is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the female lead who helps anchor the film’s emotions brimming under the surface. Her character as well as Smith’s reflect an admirable stoicism against the odds they face, rendering the powder kegs that threaten to pierce their armor all the more dramatic. The film doesn’t break much new ground in its cinematic storytelling, but it will definitely color the way you watch tackles in football if the mounting facts over the past years haven’t altered your perceptions already.
Thanks to The Sistah Chick for sharing this review on her popular news compilation Web site.