Monday, December 21, 2015

Concussion: Or Mr. Will Smith Goes to Washington

By José Alberto Hermosillo
 Poster design by Cold Open Copyright Sony Studios  
"Concussion" is a powerful biopic of a man of color who took the world of football by storm on an “Any Given Sunday.” It reflects the man's struggles and accomplishments flawlessly. 

Will Smith shines on the screen. The script of this heartfelt story was tailor-made for the actor to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance.
 Poster design by Cold Open Copyright Sony Studios
"Concussion" is based on the life of the Nigerian immigrant, Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic specialist in the Science of Death who discovered the chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a traumatic brain injury better known as a concussion.
Copyright Sony Studios 2015
Doing his studies, Dr. Omalu follows the paths of the bizarre and tragic deaths of former NFL players, who were considered untouchable Gods by fans and the sports authorities. It's not normal to die at fifty active and famous.  

Omalu’s character is faithful to the truth and is not afraid of engaging in an epic battle between David vs. Goliath. 

The football players were suffering from a progressive, degenerative brain disease, a trauma resulting from the constant bumps in the heads from playing America’s favorite sport known as football. 

Copyright Sony Studios 2015
The Nigerian character is a Doctor who came from outside, and who had the vision to understand the true nature of the sport without fanaticism or infatuation. He delivers a significant report using some animals that have their skull a natural shock-absorbent protecting their brains from being damaged. For example, woodpeckers. It is something humans don’t have. 
 Poster design by Cold Open Copyright Sony Studios
During Dr. Omalu's research, he makes some enemies, including the high NFL administrators and also the FBI. 

With determination, he is risking all his savings to investigate the disease.

He also makes a few allies, including a supportive boss Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), and Dr. Julian Bailer (Alec Baldwin), who believes in Omalu's honesty. 

As a forensic, he is so immersed in his work with the dead bodies that his own boss tells him: “You need a girlfriend; you need to touch someone alive.” 

As an immigrant in America, the doctor has the advantage of being an educated person, and that helps him sometimes to open some doors to continue his studies. And some other times is a stigma working against him, even by people of his own.

Mr. Smith nails the Nigerian accent to perfection, it took him more than three months to master the English/Nigerian accent. 

The script of “Concussion” has some circumstances falling together too quickly, some additional sugar-coated dialogs that sacrifice the symbolism and the subtext, making the information in the speaking parts way too explicable.
 Copyright Sony Studios 2015
For instance, the conversation of Will Smith with his unborn child could be made with images or camera movements rather than words. 

Gugu Mbathka-Raw plays his wife, Prema Mutiso, also an African immigrant who is supportive, but she is not a participant in her husband's challenges.

“Concussion” misses the energy of a starving supporting character, someone like Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Jerry Maguire” who can jump up and down with his famous saying: “Show me the money! Show me the money!”
Photo by Jose A. Hermosillo Copyright FestivalinLA 2015
The opening scene of “Concussion” was not impressive, a montage of the Doctor’s close-ups working with the microscope is much more powerful and meaningful to introduce the story. 

Another reference is the Best Picture Oscar winner “A Beautiful Mind,” where we can see the character’s real struggle and the supportive student who withstand the blows (Jennifer Connelly). We will never forget her famous quote: "I need to believe, that something extraordinary is possible."

Photo by Jose Alberto Hermosillo Copyright © 2015 Festival in LA

Director Peter Landsman’s artistic background helped him to illustrate progressive cinematography and perfect use of colors the characters’ evolution, setting the emotional tones in the right mode. 

For example, while the doctor is working in the morgue, everything is in a dark gray tone, and towards the end, right when “Mr. Will Smith Goes to Washington” to speak to the committee, we can see the warm light at the end of the tunnel. 

“Concussion” is a story of perseverance and struggle for tolerance and understanding, a drama with nationalistic rhetoric where all of us can relate to, and learn something valuable about football and human nature.