The NFL probably isn't going to like this. But it's a topic that must be discussed, and what better forum than a crowded movie theater on Christmas morning. Sure there will be plenty of fun movies opening on December 25. But with the NFL season really heating up, a lot of fans are going to want to go behind the scenes of one of the more controversial issues. Concussion stars Will Smith and is based on a true story as it delves into NFL brain trauma. Sony Pictures has released the first trailer and poster for this important topic.
Will Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and fought for the truth to be known. Concussion is based on the David vs. Goliath journey of Dr. Omalu, who treats the football-related brain trauma of a pro player while fighting to bring awareness to the public. In his search for the truth behind the devastating malady, Omalu's quest humanizes the price paid by professional athletes in impact sports but also by people who challenge the status quo as it exposes the political, cultural and corporate interests that fuel the business of sports.
Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in athletes (and others) with a history of repetitive brain trauma, including symptomatic concussions as well as asymptomatic subconcussive hits to the head. CTE has been known to affect boxers since the 1920s. However, recent reports have been published of neuropathologically confirmed CTE in retired professional football players and other athletes who have a history of repetitive brain trauma. This trauma triggers progressive degeneration of the brain tissue, including the build-up of an abnormal protein called tau. These changes in the brain can begin months, years, or even decades after the last brain trauma or end of active athletic involvement. The brain degeneration is associated with memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.
Will Smith is joined in Concussion by a stellar ensemble cast. Joining him are stars Alec Baldwin, Luke Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, David Morse and Albert Brooks. Peter Landesman, probably best known for Kill the Messenger and Parkland, writes and directs the movie, which is partially based on the GQ article "Game Brain," written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Ridley Scott produces alongside Giannina Facio, David Wolthoff, Larry Shuman and Elizabeth Cantillon. David Crockett and Michael Schaefer are executive producers. Peter Landesman has a production team that includes director of photography Salvatore Totino, production designer David Crank, Academy Award-winning editor William Goldenberg, and costume designer Dayna Pink.
Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted the autopsy for several deceased Steelers players, including Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. This helped him discover the existence of specific brain trauma caused on the field. The movie sets out to show how the doctor has played an important role in convincing the NFL that football is hazardous to the head. Though, as we'll learn, the football establishment has little interest in promoting the works of Dr. Bennet Omalu. MMQB debuted the trailer, and talked with Peter Landesman about its implications. The filmmaker insisted that he is not trying to drive people away from the sport.
"I was very focused on this story. I don't feel responsible or connected to the consequences. Storytellers can't be. Otherwise you get hamstrung by your own conscience. You just have to tell the truth with the most integrity that you can. I have no position on whether or not people should play football or whether they should have their kids play football. To me, this is a story about making adult choices. Once you have the information-and the information has been obscured for a long time, it's been buried and covered up by people who don't want to damage the sport-the information is now out there, and I hope this movie brings together the information in a way that the general public can metabolize and now make their own decisions. So now that you know that concussions can kill you and playing the sport can kill you, it's on every parent and it's on every college player, it's on every high school player and professional player on whether you are going to let your child play. It's the same with smoking, drinking and doing drugs. I like to think in some ways that life is an occupational hazard. Something we do in our life is going to kill us; maybe now, maybe 50 years from now. You have to choose what those things are. We love to drink and be merry and be happy, we know it's not good for us, but we do it. It's about making adult choices."
The story of Concussion is something that definitely should be discussed, and you can expect to hear more about it as we move closer to opening day. Concussion is entering an extremely crowded Christmas marketplace, which comes just one week after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It will have to contended with the family sequel Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip, Quentin Tarantino's new Westren The Hateful Eight, Jennifer Lawrence's Miracle Mop biopic Joy, Leonardo DiCaprio's period survival thriller The Revenant, Daddy's Home, a comedy that reunites Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, Oliver Stone's Snowden biopic and the Point Break remake. Will Concussion be heard above all that noise? We'll have to wait and see, but from the trailer, it appears to be an early Oscar contender.