BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
When I heard Mr. Smith was going to be portraying a Nigerian doctor in the Peter Landesman-directed movie, Concussion, I promptly went on Youtube to see the trailer. I didn’t miss the promise it held, and so I began the countdown to be wowed.
From his days in The Fresh Prince of Bel-air sitcom, to his smashing performances in The Pursuit of Happyness and Focus, to a heart-wrenching delivery in Seven Pounds, Will Smith is known to emote beyond reasonable doubt, many times making you hit the heights of empathy. Throw in some research into a blend of pathology and an Igbo man’s accent and you have an iconic performance in ‘Concussion’ that is ovation-worthy. Will Smith really does bring it.
Concussion is a story of Doctor Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist residing in the United States. His unconventional methods elicit mixed reactions from a number of his colleagues and at some point in the movie, he is advised by one of them to ‘Go get yourself a girlfriend.’ He finally does, when clerics from his Catholic church ask him to host Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a Nairobian nurse new to the US and having nowhere else to go. He soon makes a wife of her.
In the course of performing an autopsy on a former football legend, Mike Webster, who was generally seen to have lost his mind, he stumbles upon a rare case of brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head which he tags CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and tries to develop on it to prevent a repeat in other players. This upsets the NFL, and they come hard on him and on those allied to him. Things get worse as more deaths happen yet Bennet remains undeterred, demanding that the NFL admit and take his findings seriously. He loses his job and security, which he highly esteems, and is made to start over from scratch.
Asides from the fact that it is a true life story, Concussion rates highly on originality. This is one storyline with its own uniqueness, pacing and voice. The seemingly little things in this movie are the things that make a masterpiece of it. For example, in the second scene where Dr. Bennet is brought before a court to give autopsy reports on a murder case, he starts out introducing himself for minutes on end, stating all his qualifications to the jury, and leaving a big grin on my face as he mirrors the characteristic bragging that comes with Nigerian-ness.
The accent is highly commendable. The way he pronounces his words is distinctive of a schooled Igbo man, especially the word ‘Doctor’. It’s also noteworthy; the way he corrects someone every time he’s called without his title. Typical! I told you it was the subtle things that mattered, didn’t I?
So yes, Concussion isn’t all roses and sunflowers. Certain things don’t add up. We notice that there’s no defined time between when Prema becomes a girlfriend and when she becomes a wife. Things just speed past and leave us wondering. There’s also the stalker scene, the ensuing pursuit, and its relevance to the story. Who was pursuing her? Why? I guess we’ll never really know.
I don’t know if Kenyan’s have curly hair, but I’ll let that pass and assume some form of back story for why Prema does. And the child Bennet eventually has with her.
Concussion thrives on its start studding. It flourishes on top acting performances, especially but not exclusive to that of its protagonist. The scripting is almost excellent, leaving you to swoon over the depth of the words as they come. It is one of those movies you’d be glad to pay some money to see. I hope our Nollywood filmmakers can learn a thing or two from Peter Landesman and make more movies that are worth our while. Still wondering if I was wowed?