Skip to main content

22nd February 2016

Review: Concussion

Concussion is an ordinary telling of a remarkable story, with a fascinating portrayal of a fascinating man

Written and directed by Peter Landesman, Concussion tells the true story of Dr Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), Nigerian forensic pathologist and neuropathologist whose medical discovery of the condition Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) was due to the deaths of several American football players which led to an unintended fight against the National Football League. Landesman’s depiction of Omalu’s journey is able to be of an informative nature for the audience. But it is this nature that possibly hindered the prospect of an exciting and entertaining plot.

Will Smith’s gripping performances within this film abled us to form an emotional connection between the character of Dr Bennet Omalu and the audience. His portrayal of Omalu delivered an admirable character driven by determination that leds the audience to travel Omalu’s journey with him. Smith’s upkeep of a plausible Nigerian accent throughout the film added an authenticity to the story being told, and it accentuated his acting abilities. It is James Newton Howard’s music score alongside Smith’s riveting performance that created scenes of immense power and morality.

Landesman’s direction of surgical scenes deserve commending. His choice to capture emotion without showing gore by using shots of medical instruments and Dr Bennet Omalu’s dedication to his craft enabled the audience to engage with the message at heart—especially surrounding a subject as alarming as death. Although the portrayal of these kinds of scenes within this film were essential in order to make the audience understand the importance of Dr Bennet Omalu’s discovery, the film was also able to treat the subject matter in regards to human suffering delicately.

It is certain that Omalu’s story had to be shared with the world, and in what better way than the popular and universal medium of film. It is a story that impacted American football—a significant component of American culture—but most importantly, it is a story that impacted medical science. Yet, despite Omalu’s story possessing the potential to form an enticing and exciting film, Landesman’s screenplay deprived the other characters of the chance of being placed in the spotlight. Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s portrayal of Omalu’s wife, Prema Mutiso, could have been a role of greater importance when taking into account of the importance of Prema’s role in Omalu’s life. But instead, her role appeared rather minor.

The script also seemed to miss opportunities of enthrallment and suspense within the narrative. If one was to create a film in order to tell a true story, one must also take into consideration that the film must also be able to capture the spectator. But it seemed that Concussion would only be of huge interest to those interested in Omlau’s story, rather than a wider audience group. With the Oscar’s fast approaching and lack of nominations for Concussion, some felt that this film was ‘snubbed’. The film’s emphasis on moral message—yet poignant—does not provide the framework for a strong narrative unlike the other films nominated. There is no denying that Smith gives a respectable performance. Likewise, there is no denying that this is a good film.

Everything considered, this film succeeded heavily at informing its viewers about Omalu’s remarkable and life changing medical revelation. Smith’s portrayal of Omalu onscreen is a successful one, creating a captivating and remarkable performance. Landesman’s direction works well in visually capturing the story but it is his screenplay is what lets the film down, it did not utilise certain elements of Omalu’s journey to create dramatic impact. Concussion is a film that should be encouraged to be viewed by as many as possible as the story is a one that should be known by all, but it cannot be regarded as a film that can be watched over and over again—thus, no “classic” status can be knighted.


More Coverage

Chevalier (2022): A Noble pursuit that falls short of greatness

Chevalier, released in the UK in June 2023, strives to ascend to the heights of the greatest period dramas but falls short of that lofty ambition

Review: Disney 100 – The Concert

Disney 100: The Concert, hosted by Janette Manrara, is a touching tribute to an institution that has defined multiple generations

Interview with Luke Davies from Polari

The Mancunion spoke with Luke Davies head of Polari, a queer production company based in Manchester about Queer representation, the art of filmmaking, and untold stories.

Shazam! Fury of the Gods review: Superhero sequel gets sidetracked

Shazam! Fury of the Gods is a feel-good film which falls short of its forerunner