Directed by Peter Landesman, and written by both Peter Landesman and Jeanne Marie Laskas, the recent film “Concussion” was inspired by Jean Marie Laskas’s 2009 Gentlemen’s Quarterly article, “Game Brain.” The film was released last Christmas to mixed reviews and a middling box office.
The film portrays the origins of an ongoing NFL health crisis; the connection between repetitive head injuries sustained by players in the field and, years later, symptoms of dementia and psychosis.
The connection between sports injuries and mental illness was uncovered by Pittsburgh pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu.
Upon his discovery, the NFL reacts cynically.
The film begins when Pittsburgh Steeler legend Mike Webster dies at age 50 and ends up on forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu’s autopsy table.
Will Smith, who put on a superb performance, played Dr. Omalu. Omalu is a well-educated, conscientious man who could not be any less interested in football or what the Steelers means to his Pennsylvania steel town.
Omalu does, however, have an interest in finding out why Webster, a 50-year-old football legend, died under such dire circumstances.
What he finds profoundly changes his life. Omalu determines that the repetitive head trauma, integral to professional football, could cause what he calls Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
When he publishes his findings not only does the NFL disagree with them, they attempt to bury both Dr. Omalu’s findings and his career.
Simultaneously entertaining and disturbing, I was surprised to find that Rotten Tomatoes rated this movie only at 63 percent.
Perhaps this was because the film followed a repetitive sports drama format. Another possibility is that, with Landesman’s background as an investigative reporter, the reviewers expected something more revealing and overtly damning of the NFL.
Regardless of their rating, the movie is both well acted and entertaining. “Concussion” hits DVD/Blu-ray March 16.