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Title: Concussion

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :1.5stars:

HTS Overall Score:80

Will Smith hasn’t had a hit for quite some time, as the once box office mega draw has turned into another “Arnold” or “Stallone” scenario. He struggled to maintain dignity once more after “After Earth” bombed so ridiculously poorly and his other outings failed to gain traction. “Concussion” actually turns that around ever so slightly, offering the first glimpse at the great acting that Will Smith was known for (well, despite his over the top “fun” roles too) even if he got a bit snubbed at the Oscars. “Concussion” is a more serious role for the mature actor, allowing him to flex his dramatic muscles a bit more and play the role of Dr. Bennett Omalu, a forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh who discovered that the NFL wasn’t being too honest with their glib denial that concussion related injuries were long term, or affected as many players as they did. It’s a great role by Smith, but the overly black and white take on the source material, as well as some sometimes extreme over dramatization of the events leave the movie feeling a bit colder and more sterile than it really should have been.

Dr. Omalu (Smith) was a brilliant forensic pathologist working out of Pittsburgh during the early 2000 era. A Nigerian immigrant, he carried multiple Bachelors and master’s degrees in varying medical niches, making him an incredibly intelligent man. In a routine autopsy of NFL legend Mike Webster (David Morse) he discovers something very disturbing. Mike was suffering from a mental lapse that was unseen in someone of his age. He showed no signs of Alzheimer’s or other common mental ailments in the initial screening, but Dr. Omalu sensed something was not right. Sending out for a VERY expensive panel of tests on his own dime, he confirms a suspicion that had been nagging him. It appears that all of the concussive instances of Mike Webster’s career had given him brain damage in a way that was not seen in anything but rare boxing instances and a few other abnormal circumstances. Convinced that the human brain couldn’t withstand all of these hits and that this new disease (named CTE) was more common than people realized, Dr. Omalu reached out to NFL to gain more data only to be shut down.

Football is a multi-BILLION dollar industry and it soon became clear that the NFL brass had no desire to validate the work of this “simple” forensic pathologist. Knowing what he has to do, and coupled with an unlikely ally in the form of former Pittsburgh Steelers team Dr. Julian Bailes, forges ahead to reveal the truth that the NFL so desperately wants kept secret. Along the way Dr. Omalu meets and marries a young Kenyan immigrant by the name of Prema Mutiso (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), as well as comes face to face with the fact that those with a dog in this race are not willing to lose the millions and millions generated by the sport if Dr. Omalu’s discovery is taken too seriously by the public.

“Concussion” didn’t do real well at the box office, but it was by no means a failure either. I’m a big football fan, and have been ever since I was a child, so I was instinctually drawn to the movie as I love just about every football movie out there. As much as it pains me to say so, I fully understand and support the message that the movie was trying to get across. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that when a center is barreling down the field and impacts with another playing going the opposite direction with a helmet to helmet/ground/body blow that there is going to be some side effects and consequences in the cranial region. There’s a reason boxers grow older and suffer from being punch drunk and severe concussive problems over time. However for years the NFL and their institutions have said that there is no evidence that concussions cause any long term injuries in the NFL world. Basically they weren’t as dangerous as a boxer getting pummeled in the face with a glove over and over.

My main gripe with the film comes from the fact that they played REALLY fast and loose with the actual chain of events. Dr. Omalu DID bring out a published study that brought the issue to the forefront of the medical community in 2011, but in the movie they make everything appear black and white. Good guy immigrant doctor struggling fiercely against a mustache twirling cadre of football villains who want to crush him. There’s even a scene where the FBI comes in and levies 84 counts of fraud against Omalu’s boss, Dr. Wecht (played amazingly well by Alert Brooks) in an effort to shut the good Dr. down. While the investigation of fraud DID occur, Wecht was actually indicted before Dr. Omalu’s work become public, and Dr. Omalu even testified at his hearing against him. The same goes for all of the vitriol that Omalu receives and the miscarriage that his wife has due to the stress of being stalked by the NFL goons. It’s a little surprising in reality as the NFL has PLENTY of skeletons in the closet and known for their thuggery. Which makes the decision to fabricate a lot of events even more puzzling.

“Concussion” is a solid movie, but one that really feels a bit sterile and lifeless apart from the great acting job done by Will Smith. There is very little passion and heart to the film, as it is content to just meander along and relay a syrupy emotional appeal to the audience so that they can cheer when the truth is revealed and the evil corporate slobs behind it are vilified. It seems to be a trend lately as many MANY more “uncovering the truth” films seem to be hitting the movie video market lately. “Truth”, “Spotlight”, “The Big Short”, “Concussion”. It’s all a very obvious layer of frustration among the general populace as they feel like they are being lied to and manipulated by those in charge of the U.S. I could go political on the mentality behind this for hours, but I will refrain and rather just simply say that it is an interesting trend.


Rated PG-13 for thematic material including some disturbing images, and language

Video :4.5stars:
Shot entirely on Arri Alexa digital cameras and given a 2K DI from the 3.4k source material, “Concussion” arrives on Blu-ray with a stellar looking video encode. Colors are a bit flat, but show solid saturation levels (maybe to show that it’s a drama vs. being overly flashy and aggressive in the color scheme). Blues and greys dominate the spectrum and fine detail is incredibly nuanced. You can see each individual pore and crevice on Will Smith’s aging face, and the intricate weave of his expensive suite is resplendent with fine details. Sometimes I noticed some seemingly intentional blooming that softened the resulting image just a bit, but those scenes aren’t indicative of the entire movie. Blacks are deep and stable, with great shadow detail and no signs of crush. There IS some very slight banding in a couple of the darkest scenes, but once again, not very intrusive.

Audio :4.5stars:
“Concussion” comes to Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track that really shines in all aspects of the experience. For a movie that I assumed would have the standard front heavy experience, “Concussion” has a rather bombastic and intense sound signature to the movie. There are quite a few intense and heavy scenes where the bass line is amped up to show intensity and the impressive surround activity in the movie is quite jaw dropping at times. The sounds of football players crunching into each other with brutal ferocity impacts like a freight train, and the immersive sounds of Pittsburgh background noise fills out the back end quite nicely. I WAS a little disappointed that the Atmos track was left off of the Blu-ray disc. It seems that the 4K UltraHD release carries an Atmos track (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), but this experience was left off of the Blu-ray much like how “Point Break” forwent the same Atmos track that it was supposed to have in the original press release.

Extras :1.5stars:

• Deleted Scenes
• “Crafting Concussion”
• “Inside the True Story”
• Commentary with Director Peter Landesman

Overall: :4stars:

“Concussion” certainly feels a bit like Oscar bait in many ways, but it does tackle a very important issue that has cropped up in the sport of football, before now rather unknown by the masses and medical community at large. Will Smith does a commendable job as Dr. Bennett Omalu. So good in fact that I am actually rather understanding of Jada Pinkett-Smith’s frustration at her husband not receiving a nomination for the role. The movie is a bit flawed and overly zealous with the drastic interpretations and changes to the actual events that took place, but it is definitely worth a watch. Especially considering the fantastic audio and video specs that go along with the release.

Additional Information:

Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks
Directed by: Peter Landesman
Written by: Peter Landesman, Jeanne Marie Laskas
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1, SpanishDD 5.1
Studio: Sony
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 123 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: March 29th 2016

Buy Concussion On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy Concussion On 4K UltraHD Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Worth a Watch

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Thanks for the review. I will have to check it out. I read a story many years ago about concussions and in that study it was found that better helmets could be used but it was very expensive so teams didn't want to use them.. Granted today's players know the risks of playing the game, not only having concussions but other serious bodily injury and are willing to forgo those risks for the quick payout. Football while it is fun is a dangerous game that is for sure.. Players need to weigh the risks along with the benefits that is for sure.
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