America loves football. The NFL rules Sundays. Therefore, Concussion, a film that suggests that the sport lied to fans for years about the dangers of playing football, was going to have trouble attracting an audience regardless of how well constructed it was. The NFL ignored the complaints of thousands of former players in order to protect their brand, but in the process it has become a beloved conglomerate worth more than $40 billion. Few want to see a film that tells them how bad football can be.
It’s 2005, Nigeria-born Dr. Bennet Olamu (Will Smith) works for the coroner’s office at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Hospital. Dedicated to his work, Olamu talks to his patients while determining their cause of death. One day, he receives the body of local Steelers legend Mike Webster (David Morse), who had committed suicide. Upon examination, Olamu discovers an unusual amount of protein in his brain. As the film portrays, Webster had been one of the NFL’s greats, having played for fifteen seasons, and been a part of four Super Bowl winning teams. Before his death, according to the movie, he sold his Super bowl rings and was living in a truck, getting high on Super Glue.
As time passes, Olamu examines several more former NFL players who exhibited strange or erratic behavior shortly before their early deaths. He concludes that they are suffering from brain trauma that arose as a result of repeated blows to the head. Coined CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) the good doctor was shocked that the NFL didn’t want to hear about his findings. In fact, the league did everything they could to discredit him, giving special focus to the fact that Olamu wasn’t even an American citizen. He begins receiving death threats because of his work. Luckily for Olamu, he has the help of his boss Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks) and the former team doctor for the Steelers, Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin), who do their best to guide him through the mind field of publicity, while balancing threatening phone calls and FBI involvement. Both Brooks and Baldwin do fine supporting work with the limited material they had to work with here.
Will Smith’s portrayal of Olama is the strongest aspect of Concussion, by far, it’s a shame he’s let down by scattershot material. Written and directed by Peter Landesman, the film goes from bullet point to bullet point, without much information about how we got there; everything feels abrupt. Nonetheless, Smith’s commitment to the role is obvious. His mannerisms and accent are spot on. Smith garnered a well-deserved Golden Globe nomination and if Landesman had put as much careful work into the script as Smith did his performance, Concussion could have been a great film despite everything going against it.
Presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, Sony has given Concussion a great transfer, with consistent black levels throughout the film and superior image detail in both wide and tight shots. Colors appear realistic with no issues of noise or saturation. The image is pristine from start to finish.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless track is no less impressive. Football hits from current and past games, as well as James Newton Howard’s impressive score gives the soundtrack a good amount of material to work with and exhibits a better than expected range.
English, English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary: Director Peter Landesman discusses the script, casting, the characters and their motivations, score, shooting locations, and much more. This is a terrific listen for fans of the film.
- Deleted Scenes (HD) Bennet at Law Firm (1:40), Webster Works Out (1:39), Bailes Operates (0:55), Bennet Discovers the Disease (1:29), Prema Asks Bennet (1:31), Bennet and Prema Confronted (0:56), Prema Finds Webster’s Brain (0:57), Amobi (3:09), and Bennet Stays in Lodi (1:27).
- Inside the True Story (HD, 11:10) Will Smith discusses what attracted him to the role and the real Dr. Bennet Omalu and others depicted in the movie discuss the true story.
- Crafting Concussion (HD, 12:55) A quick look at the film’s production, including structure, direction, cast and performances, shooting in Pittsburgh, and more.
- UV Digital Copy Code.