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Film review: Concussion - Will Smith true-life account of NFL controversy

Star plays an immigrant doctor who discovers a suicidal disease caused by repeated head blows in American football. The film is critical of the game but also tells a broader story about the American dream of hard work being rewarded by success

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 January, 2016, 8:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 January, 2016, 11:20am

American football is treated like a religion in the United States. So anyone who goes up against the National Football League is bound to run into stiff resistance. That’s what happens to Dr Bennet Omalu in this true-life drama adapted from a GQ article by writer-director Peter Landesman.

Omalu (Will Smith), a pathologist based in Pittsburgh, discovers that the repeated head blows that occur in the game can lead to a dementia-like suicidal disease he called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In the deceptive manner of big corporations, the NFL denies the veracity of his findings, and does everything they could to discredit him personally and run him out of town.

SEE ALSO: Will Smith’s new movie Concussion delivers a hard blow to American football

Smith is convincing as the immigrant doctor who only wants to do the right thing, and can’t understand why the NFL won’t use the findings to protect their own players. A lesson in the hardball tactics of American capitalism follows, and this sees Omalu ousted from his job and forced to move to California. His work is only treated seriously when suicides by football players continue to mount, and they use Omalu’s findings to litigate against the NFL bosses.

Viewers without a knowledge of the game will still find this an arresting drama, as the necessary facts are all clearly explained by the characters. Concussion is clever in the way that it criticises the NFL, a central part of American culture, and yet, through Omalu’s scientific achievements, upholds the American dream of hard work being rewarded by success.

Concussion opens on January 21