Despite a splendid performance at it’s core, it’s a shame the film is never as rousing as it potentially can be.

Like an onscreen chameleon, Will Smith convincingly transforms into the role of Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian doctor who discovered and established the link between the effects of head-on collisions in American football players and the eventual onset of brain damage in them, but it’s a shame the film is never as rousing as it potentially can be with such a splendid performance at it’s core.

As a sports themed drama it masquerades first as a thriller before settling comfortably into becoming a fairly standard biopic. Taking a cue from Michael Mann’s masterful The Insider, the script has the familiar scent of a corporate expose (replacing the nefarious tobacco industry with the mighty NHL) and it’s detrimental effects on the whistleblower, but Concussion possesses neither the energy nor the drive of that film.

Smith is in fine form, perhaps the best he’s been in over a decade, capturing extremely well the poised temperament and verbal mannerisms of the African coroner that he plays. As grim and sometimes morbid as the subject matter is (featuring many autopsies, though shown fleetingly), his portrayal energizes and often lightens the otherwise dull movement of the storyline, that is until the film finds ways to turn him into a pious do-gooder, often with sanctimonious undertones. The decision to focus on his personal life, including the bland courtship of his eventual fiancé also serves little in the way of genuine character building except in an unsubtle political subtext (immigrants and their place in modern day America) and the film would have been better and stronger had it left this uninspiring, melodramatic angle on the cutting room floor.

To it’s credit Concussion attempts to confront racism, and to a lesser extent xenophobia, openly and directly but never with a clear purpose and only transiently. This is a film that should enrage viewers, make them angry at the onscreen displays of corporate threats towards a foreigner trying to do the right thing. Instead what we get is a passive aggressive narrative and a screenplay that lacks fiery provocation.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and