Stars: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Mike O'Malley, Albert Brooks
Director: Peter Landesman
Oscar History: No nominations
Snap Judgment Ranking: 2/5 stars
(Real Life Doesn’t Have Spoilers) The film follows Dr. Omalu as he realizes, through a series of autopsies, that football and the continuous head trauma that the sport entails causes severe brain damage, leaving the football players suffering from depression, paranoia, delusions, and frequently from self-inflicted death or substance abuse. The movie is spelled out in the same sort of vein as some of the great crusader-dramas like Silkwood or Erin Brockovich, but here we have an issue that doesn’t seem as clear-cut as clean water or workplace safety (or maybe my Millennial perspective is showing a little bit here as I don’t recall those being issues in those eras since I wasn’t old or even born for one of them). The film takes place when the NFL is still deeply engrained into our national psyche-everyone watches the Super Bowl and stars like Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning have universal name recognition.
I think the bigger thing about the film, at least the part that makes you discuss the subject when you leave, actually achieves the mark. Through deeply defined black-and-white arguments, the film makes you wonder if the glorification of knocking around other human beings senselessly in sports like football, boxing, and hockey, is remotely worth the squeeze. It feels in many ways, especially with this scientific knowledge, that we haven’t progressed much beyond that of the gladiators, where men beat each other bloody in order to attract the largest prize, and honestly I feel like this too shall come to pass as more and more people realize the long-term effects. I got into an argument with someone after the movie who said such a postulation was ridiculous and would never happen in our lifetimes, but many people not so long ago said the same thing about people quitting smoking, gay marriage, and having a black president so never-say-never, particularly when the evidence is as obvious as Concussion can make it. A day not too far off may occur when the NFL is seen at the very least in the same way that boxing is today-something clearly tainted by the effects of the trauma and not watched by all.