Review: 'Concussion' is a movie parents need to see
There’s a scene in the new movie “Concussion” that should strongly resonate with parents of children active in sports.
In the scene, Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Pittsburgh pathologist who linked concussions from football-related injuries to brain damage, begs the official doctor of the National Football League to admit that playing football causes chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a form of brain damage so severe it mimics the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, bipolar disease, depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. After a heated confrontation, the doctor refuses, rebutting, “Do you know the implications of what you're doing? If only 10 percent of the mothers in America believed that football was a dangerous sport, that would be the end of football.”
Starring Will Smith, “Concussion” is the true story of Omalu’s discovery of and struggle to get CTE recognized by the NFL, and it might very well make the mothers and fathers in the audience see football differently.
The story opens in 2002, when Omalu performs an autopsy of Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. Webster had been homeless, living in his truck, paranoid, aggressive and self-mutilating. A compassionate Nigerian unable to dismiss the cause of Webster’s death as a simple heart attack, Omalu himself pays for a full set of tests on the dead man’s brain. The results changed science and medicine, proving that Webster’s career as a football player led to brain damage so severe he became unrecognizable in his last years.
Unfortunately, football fanatics and the NFL itself dismissed the findings, going so far as to threaten Omalu’s life and career if he didn't revoke his statements. When numerous other Steelers players died from suicide and depression-related incidents, Omalu completed tests to confirm they, too, had CTE. You would think four findings would solve the matter, but as portrayed on film, Omalu continued to face pushback for years afterward.
“Concussion” is a powerful movie, skillfully acted by Smith and justly earning him a Golden Globe nomination for his role in it. While I haven’t seen the other nominees yet, I predict (and hope) Smith wins the Golden Globe for his role in this. He’s really that good.
“Concussion” is also a movie that might, finally, make people understand how potentially dangerous of a sport football is. Strangely, it also pays homage to football, repeatedly recognizing it as “beautiful” and “Shakespearean” despite its dangers.
While it’s probably not one for the entire family — the dramatic storyline, I imagine, will bore most kids — it’s definitely a movie I’d recommend to parents. Seeing it might not make you see football differently, but it should. Even though it deals with a tough, dramatic subject, “Concussion” somehow manages to be entertaining and compelling, too.
Simply put, it’s a good movie. Go see it.
Rated PG-13, “Concussion” opens in theaters nationwide Dec. 25.