Thursday, 18 February 2016
In a year -- the second consecutive year, unfortunately -- where no performances by non-white actors were nominated for Oscars, one can sympathize with Will Smith. He'll be boycotting this year's Oscars ceremony, partly as protest for the Academy's continued failure to recognise diverse talent and partly because he's no doubt miffed that his latest dramatic turn, as a real-life Nigerian-born doctor who uncovered the link between America's favourite past time and brain damage, has gone unrecognised.
It certainly must sting when a far inferior performance by Bryan Cranston (see Trumbo) has had unanimous love across awards season. Smith's is a solid enough performance, with an admirable Nigerian accent, but the role is another in his list of Messiah Complex heroes, and the film itself is far less hard hitting than the subject it is detailing.
As one former NFL footballer after another succumbs to suicide brought on by mental issues, Pittsburgh mortuary doctor Bennet Omalu, already known to take his time with his deceased patients, begins to take a closer look at the brains of the victims and the sport that they loved -- a sport he has no interest in and hence his lack of reticence in tackling the problem.
Naturally, the powers that be at the NFL don't want to hear that their multi-billion dollar business is killing the men whose backs they're money is made off, so ignoring, silencing and discrediting Omalu has them turning defense into offense. But the good doctor's Kenyan-born wife, Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and mentor and boss, Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks adding some much needed levity) have his back.
An important story and an important issue, Peter Landesman's film (based on a GQ article by Jeanne Marie Laskas) is rather prosaic, never hitting any dramatic heights nor scoring any emotional touchdowns.