Directed by Peter Landesman

Like the “Big Short”, “Concussion” does a terrific job of explaining the details behind the underlying issue of the film. In this instance, chronic trauma encephalopathy (CTE), a neurological disease that seems to target NFL players with particularly long careers…most notably, Mike Webster, Andre Waters and Dave Duerson…leading to erratic behavior, severe depression and suicidal thoughts and or actions. And like, “Spotlight”, it takes an investigative approach to telling the story of the Nigerian-born doctor and pathologist, who discovered the condition. Unlike both of them, it’s not a great film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite good and very watchable, it just doesn’t pack as powerful an emotional wallop as it probably could and/or should have.

The script is serviceable enough, but a little too descriptive, maybe…and some of the scenes feel repetitive. The struggles of Will Smith’s character seem dramatized instead of real. And the love story built in to the script seems awfully contrived – existing only as a plot device.

The acting is uniformly fine. Smith is always believable and portrays the understated bravado and soft-spoken nature of the real Dr. Omalu quite successfully. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a STUNNING British actress best known for BBC television appearances (including my all-time favorite “MI-5”), acquits herself well as Smith’s love interest. And Baldwin is adequately intense (even if his accent wanders somewhere between Louisiana and Maryland). But the standouts are David Morse, as the Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, and Albert Brooks, who plays Smith’s boss. Morse is unrecognizable, and not just because of his makeup, but because he so convincingly inhabits the addled mind of Webster during his last days. But Brooks is the absolute humanity of this film. While everyone around him is playing “important,” Brooks is hilarious and humble and caring.

While avoiding the dramatic histrionics of his “Mockingjay” compositions, James Newton Howard’s score is still not memorable in any way.

A perfectly good film to watch during a long flight.

Written 12/26/2015

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