Concussion, rated PG-13
This film is directed by Peter Landesman, who wrote the script based in part on a 2009 GQ magazine article “Game Brain” written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. The film stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with an impressive resume in the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania coroner’s office. Smith delivers a very strong performance. He has been nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and should receive some Oscar consideration for Best Actor.
Mike Webster (powerfully played by David Morse) is a former Pittsburgh Steelers center, who is well-loved in the city of Pittsburgh; they love their Steelers. In 2002, he died in his pickup truck, homeless, divorced and confused. Dr. Omalu, a Catholic immigrant from Nigeria who doesn’t know anything about football is assigned to do his autopsy. He doesn’t know anything about football. Dr. Omalu talks to each person before beginning his work on their body. Webster died of a cardiac arrest, but Dr. Omalu doesn’t know why he died. His CT scan is normal. He wants to do additional tests, but due to budget restrictions, can only do them at his own expense, which is approved by his supervisor Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks). What he finds is that Webster died of a brain disorder, which Dr. Omalu will name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a disorder caused by repeated blows to the head. Dr. Omalu estimates that in his years playing football Mike sustained approximately 70,000 such blows to his head.
Dr. Omalu is assisted by former Steelers team doctor Julian Bailes (portrayed by Alec Baldwin), who will try to build a bridge between Dr. Omalu and the National Football League (NFL), and County Coroner Cyril Wecht. Eventually, he will co-author a paper detailing his findings in a medical journal, which is dismissed by the NFL. Over the next few years, Dr. Omalu discovers that three other former NFL players – Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk and Andre Waters – also had CTE. Still, the powerful NFL does nothing about the problem.
Dr. Omalu initially meets the attractive Prema Mutiso (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who starred in 2013’s Belle), when his priest asks if she could stay with him as she has no other place to stay. Their relationship would continue to grow until they marry.
We see that Dr. Omalu is subjected to criticism and harassment for taking on the NFL on this issue. Only after four-time Pro Bowler Dave Duerson commits suicide and is diagnosed with CTE does the NFL Players’ Association begin to take Dr. Omalu’s findings seriously.
The film is rated PG-13 for some adult language, including several abuses of God’s name, implied pre-marital sex, and football violence. On the plus side, the faith of Dr. Omalu and Prema is shown in a positive manner throughout the film.