Will Smith joins forces with writer/director Peter Landesman (Kill the Messenger) and producer Ridley Scott on Concussion, a true story-based sports drama that Sony Pictures will release in theaters just before 2015 draws to a close – in order to capitalize on the film’s potential as an award season contender, no doubt.
Will Smith stars in Concussion as Dr. Bennet Omalu, an accomplished forensic neuropathologist who was the first to discover the existence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE): a disease of the brain found in athletes with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Omalu made the discovery after performing the autopsy of several deceased Pittsburgh Steelers players, including Mike Webster.
The debut trailer for Concussion was made exclusively available through Monday Morning Quarterback over at Sports Illustrated. The movie follows Bennet Omalu as he tries to convince others of his discovery and battles attempts by the National Football League to discredit him. Director Peter Landesman spoke to MMQB about why he chose to tell Bennet’s story.
“When I heard about Bennet Omalu, I recognized that the story operated on a number of levels that made it completely unique. As an immigrant coming to America, who discovers a dangerous detail about the most American of things, America’s sacred cow, who then is forced to tell America about itself as a disaffected Nigerian, it was an extraordinary opportunity to explore what it is to be an American”.
Concussion looks to be a unique addition to the American sports film genre, judging by the first trailer. The typical sports drama focuses on the athletes and coaches, and their desire to play and win the game. Concussion instead resembles a political drama/thriller that pits a foreign non-athlete against a “bad guy” in the form of the NFL; given the recent series of controversies the league has endured in real life, the organization probably won’t consider this film a welcome treat, either.
The real Dr. Bennet Omalu sat for an interview with Frontline where he explained the reaction the league had to his discovery.
“I was excited. I thought the football industry would be happy with our new discovery. I thought naively that discovery of new information, unraveling new information, redefining concepts, I thought the football industry would embrace it… Some of them actually said that I’m attacking the American way of life. ‘How dare you, a foreigner like you from Nigeria? What is Nigeria known for, the eighth most corrupt country in the world? Who are you? Who do you think you are to come to tell us how to live our lives?'”
CTE is slowly being acknowledged (especially as young athletes retire early), but still isn’t a discussion at the forefront of contact sports. Perhaps Concussion will shine a bright enough light on the disease (and the NFL’s questionable response to it) and allow for dialogue and proper education.
With reputable talents working behind the camera and a cast that includes such acclaimed stars as Gugu-Mbatha Raw (Belle), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (American Odyssey), Alec Baldwin (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation), and Albert Brooks (This Is 40) along with Smith as the lead, perhaps the movie will do right by someone who was just trying to save some lives.
Concussion arrives in theaters on December 25th, 2015.