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Concussion

Will Smith and the Academy? by Columbia Pictures
Will Smith and the Academy? by Columbia Pictures

A hard-hitting, heart-wrenching, and heavy film

Do not watch this film unless you’re 100% sure you want to.

Based on a true story, Concussion focuses on pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu (played by Will Smith) who, while living and working in Pittsburgh, discovers Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE): a degenerative brain disease brought on by repeated head trauma, such as concussions. This film follows the constant battle between Dr. Omalu and the NFL.

While Dr. Omalu sees the devastating effects CTE has on NFL football players and wishes to make his research recognized to save lives, the NFL wants to bury his findings so players – even players suffering from head injuries – can keep playing and so fans can keep paying. ‘Cause, really, as long as these athletes keep making bank and bring in good business, who cares if they sustain major brain injuries and end up committing suicide due to mush brains that can’t think straight? Football is just that important right? Riiiiiiiiiiight.

Having suffered two serious concussions of my own, I was a tad hesitant to watch this movie for fear it would re-traumatize me. Although Concussion did have a couple shortcomings and some parts that were hard to watch, I thought the film was pretty dang good.

Sick plot line? Check. Killer lighting, camera angles, and soundtrack? Check, check, and check. Solid acting? Check. I personally thought Will Smith pulled off his accent well and acted successfully in his serious role as Dr. Omalu even though he’s more well-known for his comedic roles. So, well done Willy. Well done.

Now, although the storyline made sense, the passage of time was quite confusing. At the beginning of Concussion, young, beautiful Miss Prema Mutiso moves in with Dr. Omalu. Then, these two date. Then, oh wait, what? They’re engaged? Yup. When did that happen? No idea. Ah yes, and then they magically get married and build a house. The movie neither shows these events occur on camera nor draws attention to these significant plot points even in the slightest. I found this downfall in the plot confusing and distracting. How am I supposed to take in the severity of repeated head trauma when I’m trying to figure out when Dr. Omalu married his bae?! I can’t!

Additionally, in one moment, Dr. Omalu is in the process of researching his CTE discovery for publication. Then, a few scenes later, a shot shows his article published in a medical journal. Articles take a long time to get published (duh), especially in medical journals… so… wow, Dr. Omalu, that was fast. The classic “three months later” or “one year later” didn’t even come across the screen to be like, “Hey, this scene is happening in the future.” Nope. Apparently everything happened in the background at lighting speed. Confusing.

Perhaps these lapses in time represent the lapses in memory someone with CTE has. Ooooooh now that is definitely a possibility and that would make the plot brilliantly complex in meaning. So, I’m gonna go with that. ‘Cause, overall, I really did enjoy this film. It accurately depicted the anger and depression associated with repeated head trauma. Trust me, I’d know if this depiction was accurate; remember, people, I have been concussed and had my fair share of struggles with depression and anger because of my brain-bustin’ experiences.

The repeated scenes of football players delivering brutal, helmet-to-helmet hits along with the scenes revealing various NFL players’ deep emotional and mental struggles with CTE that often lead to their suicides emphasize the severity of untreated, repeated concussions and the extent coaches and organizations will go to in order to cover up these injuries. In this sense, Concussion connects to issues in recreational, university-level, and pro leagues even in today’s time. Concussions often go unnoticed, unmentioned, and, thus, undiagnosed because players want to keep playing and coaches want to keep fielding their best team to win and to please fans. Who knows? This may even happen at the University of Regina.

Anyways, yes, Concussion has its shortcomings in the passage of time, it is hard to watch and listen to especially when Dr. Omalu cuts open corpses and when football players’ helmets crack together, but it is a solid film that emphasizes the realities surrounding concussions and CTE. If you’ve been concussed before and are not one hundred per cent sure you want to see this movie for fear that it will re-traumatize you, I do not recommend watching this film. If you’re one hundred per cent ready to watch this film with its heavy content, then, by all means, knock yourself out.

About Destiny Kaus

Former carillon production manager/arts editor/arts writer.