CONCUSSION – Review by Susan Granger

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Will Smith delivers a superb performance as real-life forensic neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who identified the brain disorder called Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in pro-football players, inadvertently alienating the National Football League. In 2002, a gentle, soft-spoken Nigerian immigrant with multiple medical degrees, Dr. Omalu detects evidence of damage related to trauma in the brain of former Pittsburgh Steeler “Iron Mike” Webster (David Morse), who died at the age of 50. Read on…

Soon afterwards, he finds similar signs in the brains of other deceased players who had suffered from mood swings, violent outbursts and diminished comprehension.

Tenacious Dr. Omalu believes that pro football players are routinely concussed hundreds of times over the course of a career – but it’s a judgment which only can be confirmed posthumously.

When he and his colleague, Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), publish their research in a 2005 medical journal, NFL officials refute their dangerous discovery, although former team doctor Julian Bailes (Alex Baldwin) reluctantly agrees.

Idealistic Dr. Omalu is warned: “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week.”

After being threatened, harassed and pursued, he and his Kenya-born wife (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) are even threatened with deportation.

Although NFL player Dave Duerson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) testifies before Congress that there’s no evidence of a connection between repetitive head trauma and brain injury, after he commits suicide in 2011, his brain reveals the same injury. (A recent autopsy on Hall of Fame NFL running back Frank Gifford revealed that he, too, had CTE.)

“I am not anti-football, anti-NFL,” Dr. Omalu says, “I stand by the truth.”

Significantly, when Sony Pictures’ e-mails were hacked, the New York Times reported that the script and marketing campaign were changed to avoid legal fallout with the NFL. Whether that’s true remains conjecture but the result is surprisingly ineffective, given the topic and Smith’s understated portrayal.

Inspired by Jeanne Marie Laskas’ GQ article, “Game Brain,” writer/director Peter Landesman created a one-note, workmanlike, ploddingly-paced procedural with a syrupy score by James Newton Howard.

So, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Concussion” is a solemn 6, straight-forward and conventional.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.