“I have found a disease that no one has ever seen.” In Peter Landesman‘s Concussion (Columbia, 12.25), Will Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-Born, real-life forensic pathologist who 13 years ago discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE — a then-new disease affecting football players. When he revealed his findings the NFL naturally did everything they could to discredit him. What else were they going to do?
You can sense right away that Smith’s Nigerian accent feels right, and this alone may put him into the Best Actor conversation. Because it feels like “acting,” and a lot of folks eat that shit up.
As things now stand Concussion is one of five award-season contenders due to open on 12.25 — this plus The Revenant, Snowden, Joy and The Hateful Eight. That’s a lot of Christmas Day competition. The only semi-uplifting film in the bunch is Joy. I’m guessing that at least one of others will blink and move their date to early December or perhaps even late November.
Concussion has a more pressing competitor in Snowden as both are “whistleblowers against an imperfect system” dramas — a little touch of The China Syndrome or Silkwood in the night. Pic costars Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin (both playing doctors), Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser and Luke Wilson.
The only concern about Concussion is that nobody much cared for Landesman’s Parkland, which opened in the fall of 2013 to little fanfare.
Here’s a 3.25.13 Frontline interview in which Omalu was interviewed by Michael Kirk. At last glance Omalu was the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, Calif. and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
What in fact did the NFL do in response to Omalu’s findings? Here’s a 1.25.13 Atlantic piece that explores that.