Review: ‘Concussion’ is Oscar Bait, But Not Oscar Standard
Matt GlasbyReviews | 17 February 16
Writer/director Peter Landesman’s medical drama is a timely reminder that just because you’re Oscar bait, doesn’t mean you’re Oscar standard. Diligently ticking all the right boxes as if genetically engineered for awards glory, it’s a true story (check), about an honourable man (check), overcoming impossible odds (check – well, the NFL), to save lives (check). It’s also not very good.
As bookish Nigerian pathologist Dr Bennet Omalu, Will Smith is badly miscast, his accent wavering distractingly. Nobody plays a charmer like Smith, but Omalu is so stiff and principled as to be practically saintly. We first meet him securing a death row pardon for an innocent man (this takes seconds); he talks gently to the corpses he cuts open, out of respect for the dead; and he finances extra tests himself when he spots an abnormality in the brain of ruined NFL star Mike Webster (David Morse) – much to the NFL’s chagrin. Meanwhile, he’s flanked by fellow surgeon/Angry Police Chief Mike O’Malley, who practially asks for his gun and badge, and Noble Mentor Albert Brooks, who talks only in taglines. Add in Alec Baldwin plus Brits Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Eddie Marsan, and you have a more-than-capable cast, but alas, not a movie to match.
Twitchy camerawork gives everything a cheap, TV feel; the speechy dialogue is often too close to risible (“I’m not interested in common sense,” barks Marsan, “I’m interested in science!”); and the whole thing feels like an outline spun by an ambitious Hollywood executive rather than anything resembling real life.
Although, like many Netflix offerings, it can feel inconsequential.
Those with no interest can just keep walking.
There’s plenty to recommend in this increasingly paranoid sci-fi three-hander.
The idiosyncratic script, direction and style are all very English.
Apart from a few interesting wrinkles, this finale is business as usual
Nicholas Hoult gives a dignified central performance.