In the case of "Concussion," the theme was the discovery of unacceptable health risks associated with football. Is there really any debate about this now? The dangers are affirmed at all age levels.
Football players have historically accepted the risk of physical problems like bad knees, as a consequence of playing this sport that has defined manliness. But mental/cognitive problems, constant headaches that in some cases have forced sufferers to feel they must take their own life? Those of us who have never played football can feel oh so thankful. We sit back and watch "Concussion" and are shocked about what so many of our brethren have been subjected to.
I am guilty of having watched football. If there were no "fans" there would be no football. We feed the beast.
How can we possibly stop this process? It begins with each individual, of course. We must take a hard look at how we plan our weekends, and find enriching outlets to replace our football viewing. In theory it would seem easy. Addictions aren't quite so easy to confront.
The movie "Concussion" reminds us of our football obsession. It makes no clear statement that this obsession is ludicrous. It seems to nudge us to make that conclusion. But it leaves us drawing our conclusion in sort of a netherworld of conflicting impulses. Can we break the bond? I cannot say, sitting here in the year 2016. Maybe 50 years from now, we'll look back on "Concussion" as quaint, a movie that allowed us to co-exist with our impulse for wanting to watch this sport, while at least affording us a chance to know the hazardous background.
Will Smith portrays Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh, PA, home of the Steelers. Omalu discovers a new and scary brain disorder: CTE. He named it himself. Mike Webster was the poster boy for the horrific effects of CTE. Omalu performs the autopsy. I'm relieved seeing the dead body of Webster because I realize he has gone to a better place. He began losing his mind long before his death at a mere 50 years of age. A teammate with similar health issues visits Webster who is living in his pickup truck. Webster huffs turpentine. Both men seem clueless about what was happening to them.
Omalu is objective, having never been drawn into football's orbit as a fan. Those former players have had their brains shaken up. A protein builds up as a consequence. The sufferers experience hallucinations, memory loss and other trauma. The film was inspired by a 2009 GQ Magazine article. Six years later the movie finally makes the rounds, putting up a huge warning about this sport that is played by boys in every community.
We should have suspected for years that the sport was unreasonably harmful. As for its "manly" quality, society has moved beyond such values related to gender, in case you haven't noticed.
Omalu is naive enough to think the football powers-that-be will welcome scientific insights into the dangers of their sport. He is sadly shocked to find that self-interest prevails in cynical, U.S. free enterprise fashion. That's our credo today, not at all remindful of the brimming idealism that imbued my generation, the boomers, in the 1970s.
Omalu realizes the mindless animosity coming from the other side, but we vividly see that his values remain strong. Perhaps this is the most inspirational quality of "Concussion."
I have had the good fortune of watching several movies in a row that I find wholly satisfying. Prior to "Concussion" I watched (and reviewed online) "Spotlight" and "Truth." Keep it up, Hollywood.