The phrase “based on a true story” is usually best taken with a grain of salt. Some people might perceive negative connotation around the claim given the amount of times it has been attached to cheeseball horror movies. That being said, some stories have the benefit of not only being true, but also being verifiable and very, very good.
Concussion is based off of a true story, but it’s one of the better true stories that can be told. In short, it’s about a doctor that discovers a disease that professional football players often contract and die from, much to the ire of the NFL. In full, it’s about the truth standing in opposition to the interest of a business; it’s about an immigrant who embodies American ideals better than many of the Americans he interacts with; it’s about the culture of the United States standing in opposition to supposed American ideals. It’s a plot that should speak to many people.
While the movie does its best to maintain an air of honesty and reality, it does stretch the truth for the sake of the story. At one point, the NFL uses conspiracy-like tactics to have the FBI raid and arrest Omalu’s boss, throwing Omalu’s immigration status into question, something which never happened in the real world.
This plot admittedly carries the movie, as the directing and acting are average for a blockbuster film. The characters are made interesting by the context in which they find themselves. Some of the more dramatic and romantic scenes are rather cliché and uninteresting, and the directing is no more captivating, making some scenes into very bland fluff which could be discarded. Any actor in the movie associated with the NFL is portrayed as a cartoon villain. It’s not very convincing.
The only big strike against this movie is that Will Smith’s performance is shaky. His accent sounds exactly like an American trying his hardest to impersonate someone born in Nigeria, which is to say that it isn’t very good. The only benefit it brings is that Will Smith has never sounded like this before, letting the viewer disconnect him from the persona born and raised in West Philadelphia. Additionally, Smith often holds a face that makes it seem as though he is about to cry, and one can hardly imagine what he is intending to convey when he does so. It could be that he intends to look conflicted or troubled, but in this he generally fails.
Ultimately, Concussion is a movie you should see, even if it was eclipsed by the return of the king of pop culture — Star Wars. Pay attention to the themes and motifs of the story more than the characters and the drama itself to really enjoy it. Lastly, thank the producers, directors, and actors for dramatising a story so controversial.