Journalist and filmmaker Peter Landesman's Concussion will no doubt resonate with those who love tales about waging the good fight on behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves. In this story -- adapted from a GQ article on the rising frequency of suspicious, seemingly self-inflicted deaths among veteran NFL players -- Landesman sets at center stage a meticulous Nigerian immigrant pathologist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who conducts the autopsy on former Steelers center Mike Webster (David Morse). Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) finds anomalous injuries in Webster's brain that were either ignored or hidden by team physicians and which, he is convinced led to Webster's madness and death. He shares his findings with the county coroner (Albert Brooks), who supports Omalu's investigation of other NFL deaths despite the inevitable shitstorm in the league's universe his findings would turn up. Omalu finds a few friends in his quest to be heard, among them, love interest Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and former players physician Dr. Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin) but he also finds himself outmatched by the NFL, which, as Brooks' character says, "owns a day of the week." But Omalu asks, genuinely mystified, why the league commissioner would not want to know the truth and protect the players. The answer is obvious to all who grew up in America, but not so clear to a relatively new arrival, and, further, might make the question even more pressing. Landesman has an ear for story and an eye for the intimate elements contained therein. Scenes between Smith and Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights) are radiant and in one instance late in the film, heartrending. It would be difficulty for me to overstate how terrific I found Smith to be in this picture. Maybe the real-world celebrity marital / parental drama clouded my memory of just how fine an actor he is when he's got a character to pour himself into (Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds) and he has found another here. Highly recommended.


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