Biography Blu-ray Review

'Concussion' Blu-ray Review: Will Smith butts heads with the NFL

March 31, 2016Ben MK

Will Smith is an actor best known for his flashier roles in big budget blockbusters like the Men in Black series, Independence Day and the upcoming Suicide Squad. For his latest film, however, Smith is toning things down, playing the real-life forensic pathologist who brought to light the link between concussions and NFL player trauma.

Concussion stars Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, an extremely well-educated Nigerian immigrant in pursuit of the American Dream. A neuropathologist at the Allegheny County Coroner's Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bennet finds himself thrust into the spotlight after he performs the autopsy on beloved footballer Mike Webster (David Morse). A Hall-of-Famer who died homeless and deranged, Webster ends up the poster child for what Bennet terms Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE); however, when he goes public with his findings, Bennet is stunned to be met with hostility, not just from the NFL, but by the football-loving public, who see him as trying to destroy the game itself.

Written and directed by Peter Landesman and based in part on GQ writer Jeanne Marie Laskas' 2009 article "Game Brain," the film follows Bennet, his mentor, Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), and former Steelers team doctor and neurologist for the NFL Players Association, Dr. Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin), as they battle the NFL leadership, who not only refuse to acknowledge Bennet's discovery, but who also threaten to destroy both his and his mentor's reputations and careers. There's also a love story element to the narrative, as along the way Bennet meets and falls in love with a young Kenyan woman named Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and they decide to start a family together.

A sports drama that's less about the game of football and more about one man's journey to do right by his own conscience, Concussion feels especially timely, what with the NHL currently undergoing its own concussion scandal; however, if the movie has one glaring flaw, it's that its storytelling isn't particularly memorable. That being said, the film does feature a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Stephen Moyer and Paul Reiser in minor roles; and both football fans and non-fans alike should be impressed by the earnestness of Smith's performance, which proves to be a welcome departure from his usual on-screen persona.

Concussion lands on Blu-ray with a solid, if not unspectacular, technical presentation. Nevertheless, it's one that suits the film's low-key approach, with cleanly resolved details present in faces, clothing and environments, good color saturation levels and excellent contrast throughout. Turning to the film's sound design, it should be noted that viewers shouldn't expect an audio experience akin to football movies like Any Given Sunday. On the contrary, while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does feature a few brutal hits and tackles, this is mostly a dialogue-driven affair, one in which surround speakers occasionally come alive with sounds like that of nightclub music or the engines of a passing train.

Sony's one-disc Blu-ray release includes an UltraViolet digital copy and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Feature Commentary with Director Peter Landesman - Landesman discusses composer James Newton Howard's score, the casting and the actors' performances, the scenes and the script, the real-life story, the filming locales and more.
  • Deleted Scenes (12:52) - Nine scenes ("Bennet at Law Firm," "Webster Works Out," "Bailes Operates," "Bennet Discovers the Disease," "Prema Asks Bennet," "Bennet and Prema Confronted," "Prema Finds Webster's Brain," "Amobi" and "Bennet Stays in Lodi").
  • Inside the True Story (11:10) - The real Dr. Bennet Omalu, Dr. Julian Bailes and Dr. Cyril Wecht talk about the true events depicted in the film.
  • Crafting Concussion (12:55) - A making-of piece that looks at writer/director Peter Landesman, the stars' portrayals of their real-life counterparts, the love story between Bennet and Prema, and filming in Pittsburgh.

Concussion is available from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as of March 29th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 3 Mins.

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