MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Sony Pictures
Directed by Peter Landesman. Starring Will Smith, Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks), county coroner and mentor to Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith), is trying to help him understand the resistance that he will be encountering when he confronts the National Football League with his evidence that repetitive concussions can lead to brain damage: “The NFL owns a day of the week. The same day the Church used to own. Now it’s theirs.”
Dr. Omalu is Christian and Dr. Wecht is Jewish and both of them will find their faith tested in their efforts to tell the truth to power. As I watched this fact-based film, I was impressed by the natural way in which religion and ethics informed the decency of its central characters.
Dr. Omalu’s research will lead him to name this brain disorder Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (or CTE) and his passion to learn more about this condition will be stonewalled by a sports system that has much to lose by the negative publicity that his findings will engender.
It is to the film’s credit that is does not over-demonize the forces that are going up against Omalu, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (Luke Wilson). Instead, the film clearly shows the risks and public criticism that accompany ethical behavior. Clearly, Omalu feels that he can do nothing less than what is right if he is to take his medical vows seriously. As the truth comes out, others will join in his defense, including a former team doctor, nicely played by Alec Baldwin.
Concussion also features a sweet (if somewhat underdeveloped) little love story between Bennet and Prema (Mbatha-Raw), a recent immigrant to America that Dr. Omalu first assists and later marries. The demands of his profession will affect their family life as well.
Writer-director Landesman is a former investigative reporter and his movie clearly wants to share this true story in an entertaining fashion. Will Smith portrays Dr. Omalu as a gentle and soft-spoken advocate for truth, in a performance that demonstrates once more his ability to get inside the heart of a good man.
Concussion is not a great movie, but it is a very good movie as well as a decent movie. Every day we have to decide whether to do the easy thing or the right thing. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
In choosing the narrow gate, we find ourselves finding life not only for ourselves but also for others. May we learn from this film to stay on the pathway of truth and love.
Four halos: Caring professionals are guided by a strong moral compass to do the right thing.
One pitchfork: Mild PG-13 swearing.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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