Will Smith stars in ‘Concussion’

Smith plays a Nigerian doctor who uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players.

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A film, which clearly manipulates the heartstrings, “Concussion” follows Will Smith (pictured above) as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who found the connection between football and severe neurological problems brought on by repetitive head trauma.

The film begins in the 90s with Dr. Omalu in a courtroom testifying as an expert witness in a murder case and touting his numerous academic accomplishments, which include a Harvard degree. Fast forward to 2002, we watch Dr. Omalu at work performing autopsies for the County coroner’s office in Pittsburg. A deeply spiritual man, it’s a spiritual experience for him when he’s performing an autopsy and he has a habit of talking to the bodies and a ritual of listening to classic soul as he works.

The story picks up a little more pace as we are introduced to Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steeler center Mike Webster (David Morse) who has severe mental issues. 1286100 - ConcussionAfter Webster’s eventual suicide, it doubles back to Omalu who is tasked with performing his autopsy. It’s then the story spins into high gear as Omalu discovers some abnormalities with his brain scan. He publishes his findings  after further discovery of chronic brain injury in more football players and becomes  the subject of a smear campaign by the NFL.  Directed by Peter Landesman, the film chronicles not only Dr. Omalu’s discovery, but the campaign that followed to sideline his findings.

“12 years later, I can’t believe how bold and audacious I was in that paper,”  says Dr Omalu. “There was nothing that I said in that paper that has not been confirmed by independent researchers.”

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Star studded with a cast that includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who plays his wife, Alex Baldwin as former Steelers team physician Dr. Julian Bailes, Hill Harper, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and as an NFL player, it’s undeniably sentimental and inspiring.

Despite its familiar passel, there’s something very watchable about the film. The main reason is Smith’s convincing nobility as an African immigrant who was the first doctor to find the connection between football and severe neurological problems brought on by repetitive head trauma.

Although his Nigerian accent wobbles a bit, it’s the perfect vehicle for Smith who pushes towards a difficult goal.

“I never wanted this to be about me, but about the players,” says Dr. Omalu. “I believe it is the spirit of people like Mike Webster, like Terry Long, like Andre Waters, like Junior Seau, that was pushing this forward. This is about love and light, saving lives, and enhancing the lives of others.”

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With its faithful rendering of a true inspirational story, it’s hard not to like this film.

“Concussion” is currently in theaters nationwide

(pictured above: L-r, Will Smith, the real Bennet Omalu, and director Peter Landesman on the set)

Samantha Ofole-Prince can be reached at samantha.ofole@caribpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @samanthaofole


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