Concussion


When the concussions became a big issue in the NFL I definitely remember it being a big deal. To an extent of course you expect a lot of injuries in the game, but it wasn’t yet known just how deadly this was. In recent years we’ve seen several gameplay additions come in to try and mitigate this like moving the kickoff so there are less returns. The helmets are also better but of course there will always still be concussions in the game so the NFL just does what it can to reduce the amount of hits. This film delves more into the discovery of this.

The main character is Dr. Omalu and he was a pathologist who would find out how people died. Omalu could be a little on the quirky side as he would talk to the dead bodies and wasn’t very well liked by his colleagues here. He did put up results each time though. One day he is puzzled at why a very healthy ex NFL player died. It didn’t seem to make sense but the office didn’t want to foot the bill for this. Omalu pays out of pocket and discovers the concussion but he has just opened up a bigger can of worms than he ever could have guessed.

Naturally when you discover something that’s really groundbreaking there is going to be a lot of fall out. There is always two questions that you have to ask yourself as well. Are you really the one who discovered this? Did nobody else ever piece this together or did something happen to everyone else who tried to go public? The second is, how do you tell the world? As several characters point out, the NFL is a huge organization with almost unlimited power. This discovery will certainly cost them a lot both in terms of cost and reputation so they will have to try and bury it.

The NFL are the main villains of the film in that sense. They’re out to protect their own interests and try to threaten and discredit Omalu the whole time. It’s not particularly surprising since if they acknowledge that he is correct then all the families of the people who died will definitely sue them. Additionally they will have to come out with new equipment and then have liability for not noticing earlier. Meanwhile if they can bury this they can buy time to come out with new protocols naturally so if someone else notices in 10 years they can say that the game has already been safe.

Not ethical but it is to be expected. The only part that felt like a bit of a stretch was the FBI randomly showing up to threaten everyone. Guess the NFL wasn’t playing around here. I thought Omalu seemed a little too surprised the whole time. I get that he’s optimistic but he seemed shocked that the NFL would be upset at his discovery and I dare say that even a kid would have come to that conclusion pretty quickly. Omalu’s discovery completely shows that the NFL is effectively murdering people. Why would they be glad to know about this? I liked to think Omalu was just messing with everyone but he did seem to really think that this was going to go over well.

Still, he’s a nice guy though and a good main character. He put in the work to learn a whole lot of different subjects in science to the point where his accolades took several minutes to read through. He took the entire case very seriously and made sure that he had enough awards where he couldn’t be silenced so easily. Omalu also took in a lady named Prema when she really needed a place to stay. So he was a class act all around.

Then you have Prema who is the main heroine of the story. She helps to cheer Omalu up when things aren’t going well. You do immediately feel like this will turn into a bit of a romance plot which is too bad since I think it would have been a good, rare example of a nice friendship blooming there. Having even just one person to stick up for you is major though so she really helped out quite a lot. On his own Omalu may not have been able to stick it out for so long.

Finally there is Bailes who also helped out. He used to be the team doctor for the Steelers and is the only professional to side with Omalu. Even then Omalu doesn’t seem to fully trust him until the end and blows up at the guy at one point. Bailes does his best to earn trust though and sees this through to the end. This will certainly impact his career and reputation as well so he’s also taking a risk.

Beyond that, everyone else here is either an antagonist or a victim. You see the ex players as they start to suffer the side effects and take their own lives. The film certainly gets quite serious in these moments as you can see how the concussions just proved to be too much. Then with the NFL players, everyone’s always really angry and yelling about Omalu’s discoveries. They seem to have no regard for the players and so the film never lets you forget that they are the enemy.

Honestly I would have liked to have seen them do a bit more here. The NFL’s like the boogeyman here as they’re mentioned a lot but rarely appear. I suppose if in real life they never met with Omalu it would be difficult to change that but I was really hoping for some more interactions between the two sides. Those tend to be the most interesting moments in a film like this where both sides size each other up a bit. The film builds up a good amount of drama either way but that would have been the clinching moment.

Overall, Concussion is a decent film to show someone if they’re interested in the whole concussions discovery. That said, I don’t think it’s quite as interesting as it could have been to the point where you’re probably better off watching a documentary about it. It’s rare to recommend a documentary over a movie but I think you will probably get more out of it that way because you just really miss the NFL angle the whole time. With a documentary you’d likely be able to see their responses in real time and it would better help to juggle the two plots there. I’m always up for a Football film though so I’m glad this came out.

2 thoughts on “Concussion

  1. This may have been one of my favorite roles for Will Smith! He was believable and I found myself rooting for him throughout the movie. I am drawn to movies with a focus on the gridiron.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.