Frances Winston felt that this film was extremely heavy, and in some parts was was ‘drama by numbers’.
Directed by: Peter Landesman – Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Arliss Howard, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, David Morse, Albert Brooks
Given the fuss that Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith made about the whitewashing of this year’s Oscars, I was expecting great things from this film. After all, as a former nominee, Smith knows exactly what it takes to land on the shortlist. So was he robbed?
The answer is no. While he does indeed give a competent, sensitive, and engaging performance in this true-life drama, it just never feels layered enough to elevate it to Oscar status.
He plays Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, coroner’s office, who discovered a condition he termed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Numerous former football players were dying as a result of this affliction, which is caused by repeated blows to the head.
However, since the NFL is a multi-million dollar business, and practically a religion in the USA (this reference is made more than once here) they are not too happy with his findings, and what follows is years of persecution for Omalu and his family and friends, as they try to discredit and destroy him, before eventually conceding that he is right.
As you’ve probably gathered from the plot synopsis, this is not a full-on action sports movie, rather it is an extremely heavy drama, which often falls victim to its own gravitas. All of the key players are still alive, so producers obviously don’t want to step on people’s toes, but its desire to convey the facts in a balanced and measured way means it never leaves the safe zone, and doesn’t take any chances. This could have been an excellent social commentary on the arrogance of big corporations, and the lengths they will go to in order to bury scandal, but instead it is drama by numbers.
This would benefit from coming up for air once in a while. Extremely heavy, and with numerous technical facts and figures thrown at the viewer, it is not the kind of flick you can switch off with. This requires your full attention, but doesn’t result in a huge payoff for the effort.
Worth a look, but far from light entertainment.
In Cinemas Now!