Concussion

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Concussion Movie Poster Image
Football is the villain in earnest but predictable drama.
  • PG-13
  • 2015
  • 123 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's tough to be right when you're all alone -- it can make you doubt yourself, and when you're faced with opposition, it might seem easier to give up than to stick to your position. Integrity and perseverance are important themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dr. Omalu is determined to do the right thing -- to try to protect football players from long-term brain damage -- even if that means going up against the powerful NFL all by himself. He resists pressure, threats, and intimidation and eventually is proven right, but it's a tough uphill climb.

Violence

Many sequences show football players on the field hitting each other, often leaving some of them on the ground, sometimes unconscious. Retired football players are shown experiencing fits of rage, directed at themselves or others in ways that are both sad and terrifying to see. Brief glimpses of graphic crime-scene photos, and several scenes show autopsies, with shots of bodies being examined. 

Sex

A couple flirts and eventually kisses.

Language

Occasional swearing includes "hell," "pain in the ass," "p--sify," "s--t," and one vehement "f--k."

Consumerism

Some consumer brands are shown on-screen, including Vaio computers. Many NFL football teams and players are mentioned by name.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A mentally disturbed character is shown inhaling some kind of intoxicant. A few scenes show people drinking at bars.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Concussion stars Will Smith as the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who conducts the autopsy of a former NFL star and discovers chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the result of repetitive head injuries from years of playing football. Omalu, offering a strong example of integrity and perseverance, goes up against the powerful NFL, which is unwilling to admit the game can be deadly. This David-vs.-Goliath story has plenty of violent football scenes that often leave players dazed or unconscious, as well as some intense moments when retired players succumb to fits of rage. There are also scenes that show people drinking and a bit of kissing and swearing (including "s--t" and one vehement "f--k").

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byReubenEW January 9, 2016

Not Your Typical Sports Film

Concussion tells a David and Goliath tale, where Goliath, instead of dying, remains alive and active. Thw proveribal David doesn't in this story and tho... Continue reading
Adult Written byjmo97 December 21, 2016

Will Smith is amazing, but the story could have been better

This movie started out with real promise: Will Smith plays a doctor who is trying to inform more people about the risks of football after a number of players di... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byJflores14 December 27, 2015

Eye opening drama has great performances, but bland plot

This sports drama may have fantastic Oscar worthy acting, but the plot was just a bit overkill and too long. Sports fans and future doctors will find it very i... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byrebo344 December 27, 2015

Standard, but interesting drama.

Concussion is an interesting and well-acted, but standard drama. Will Smith is great in his role, so was Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks. The score from James Ne... Continue reading

What's the story?

In CONCUSSION, Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a caring, thorough doctor at the Pittsburgh medical examiner's office who's baffled by his latest case: local football legend Mike Webster, who had deteriorated into a semi-coherent druggie before dying for no obvious reason. Eventually Omalu realizes that Webster's brain is damaged, the result of years of hits to the head playing football -- and many, many other players are at risk of the same fate. By identifying the condition that comes to be called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Omalu goes up against the powerful NFL, which has no interest in admitting the sport is dangerous to players and does everything it can to discredit the doctor.

Is it any good?

There's much to admire about this film: the story, the man behind the story, the great care it takes to tell its story. For this alone, Concussion deserves to be seen. But there's something that also feels removed about the film, preventing it from achieving greatness. Start with Omalu himself, who's rendered graciously by Smith (including a flawless Nigerian accent) but who also comes across as inhumanly perfect, which prevents him from being multi-dimensional. The script doesn't allow him much latitude for depth, despite the inclusion of a romantic life. Ditto for Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who gamely brings to life a fairly superficially written character.

The science behind the discovery of CTE is fascinating, but the players who are destroyed by it are even more so, and they unfortunately don't get enough time on-screen. It might have worked better had the film taken more of its time telling their stories and taken fewer detours into topics like Omalu's tensions with an unsupportive, insecure colleague. Concussion is good but not great. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Concussion's message: How does Omalu demonstrate integrity? Perseverance? Do you think you'd have been able to do what he did?

  • How accurate do you think this fact-based movie is? Why might filmmakers tweak what really happened?

  • Can football be played safely, or is it inherently dangerous?

Movie details

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