Faux sincerity permeates every frame of Concussion. It’s desperate to be taken seriously as a film worthy of your consideration, but rightly snubbed at The Oscars leading to Will Smith’s outspoken protest against this years whitewashed ceremony. Despite claiming his boycott has nothing to do with his own performance being ignored, the whole affair unfortunately feels rather awkward. This year’s Oscars do feel like an old-boys’ club reunion, with some unmemorable performances receiving recognition. Would we be better of if rubbish decisions were diversified?
What os clear is that the Oscars selection process is broken, creating a system that celebrates unimaginative candidates from a closed shop, rather than genuine creativity (The Danish Girl vs Tangerine being the clearest example). Concussion is desperate to tick the same boxes that have earned nods before and it doing so it creates something really quite appalling.
Smith might have a point regarding the lack of diversity celebrated on screen. But here we have an American actor doing a really bad, overzealous impression of a Nigerian who speaks in a single hushed tone of immaculate sincerity which just underlines his utter perfection. He cannot possibly be real. He’s the brilliant, faultless outsider, prepared to see and challenge wrongdoing with impeccable grace whilst also professing his pride for the stars and stripes of his adopted nation, despite all the vitriol against him from so many different sides. The film tries so hard to paint him as such a gracious man, the perfect immigrant. He’s so sanitised it’s sickly, dishing out sanctimonious cliches like he really means it.
The character in question is Bennet Omalu, a brilliant, forensic scientist who handles the autopsy of a former NFL player and realises how brain damage from his playing days led to his psychotic state – but no one wants to listen to this uncomfortable truth, and certainly not in a town like Pittsburg where football really is the lifeblood. It’s all based on a true story and whilst important, it never rings true thanks to a hopelessly sanctimonious script which reveals all the grease from the many studio hands it’s been put through to become this phoney. We see a number of former players going psychotic and these are probably the least sanitised moments of the movie but instead they play out like something from a horror movie, confusing and impersonal and out of place, failing to get across the devastation that’s been left behind.
Even as an NFL fan it’s very hard to care about the story as it’s presented here. The saccharine sincerity is a taste that’s difficult to eradicate. Thankfully, this is one the Academy got right.
Review by David Rank
Concussion out on 12/2/16 in the UK. Rating 12A (UK). Running time 123 mins.