director: Peter Landesman
writers: Peter Landesman
starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks and Gugu Mbatha-Raw
genre: Biopic | Drama | Sports
released: December 25, 2015 (U.S.), February 18, 2016 (Australia & Germany), March 31, 2016 (Greece)
based on the GQ article: "Game Brain" by Jeanne Marie Laskas
The film the NFL never wished existed does exist and tells the awful truth of how dangerous the sport of American Football really is. How the biggest difference between it and the rest of the extreme sports (boxing, MMA, Formula) is that all athletes involved knew the risks beforehand, but in the NFL this wasn't quite the case. What it took for them to finally be confronted with the truth was for a well educated Coroner to just do his job. Something the film shows greatly in its representation of his gallant efforts of just merely trying to live and be the American dream.
A well educated medical practitioner and immigrant working in one of the Pittsburgh mortuary's as a Coroner. Was merely doing his job day in and day out, as he saw fit. So when a famous football player died with symptoms resembling a man of an older age. Something didn't seem right to him and made him dig further with a full autopsy, which only led to him finding the true reason behind his death, football. With his findings, research and data. Dr. Bennett Omalu (Will Smith) revealed to the world the real danger football presented which he was then shunned for.
Even with the amount of heavy gear that American football players wear to "protect" themselves from harm, it isn't nearly enough to protect from what is maybe the ultimate contact sport. Where the permanent damage might leave you insane, penniless and hopeless. While it may be an entertaining sport it is a dangerous one and thankfully we have kind of reached a crucial point. Where athletes know the full risks involved, just as boxers and formula drivers already knew for so long.
However, to get to this point where athletes were made aware of the consequences with the league partially admitting to the damage it did take too long and a foreigner who didn't even like the sport to begin to bring attention to the issue. And because a lot of money was involved in the sport, they all went out of their way to discredit him and cast him out as a quack. Which shows how hypocritical we are as a society in are welcoming of foreigners and of wanting always to know the truth of things. As we would rather live a lie and have more men be injured without their knowledge than just accept the facts or truly look into those claims without bias.
This is where the film does a great job at pointing out all these issues and enhancing the idea that a sport can still be enjoyed while knowing its fully dangerous for those involved. This is the risk these man and women take for any given sport and we applaud their efforts and by partaking in the experience so they can make a living and provide us with an entertainment outlet we so desperately need.
The film has many similarities to the film 'Spotlight' in being a very straight to the point biopic/true story telling drama. Many dramas can get sidetracked when telling the true tale and try to be too intelligent about the issue or come up with a few subplots to pad it out. This is thankfully not the case here.
Still what the film does correctly is pretty much what the director has said about the transfer of information from real life onto a film. That emotionally it is authentic, but not wholly accurate. As they are a couple of things that actually didn't happen as seen in the film. As always this is because this is meant to be entertainment first and then an informative retelling of the actual events. Which you cant really blame the film too much for it, however it does show that for the filmmakers it is easier to smudge the facts in order to make a point. Such as Omalu and his wife being targeted by the NFL and making them feel paranoid during Omalu's revelations which was pushed a little bit to the extreme. As these things never did happen, even though they may make for great moments of drama in the film. Then there is the misleading information that CTE is the one thing that leads to mental instability and death to former NFL players and that family history didn't play it's own part. Such as former NFL star Mike Webster who had a family history of troubled individuals and the fact that other NFL players in general show that they are more healthy than the average person and less likely at times to be depressed and violent. Many articles and studies exist on the issue and it is wise to know all the facts, something the film fails to inform us of.
Finally, regarding Will Smith's Oscar snub I don't think there was anything racial about it. Yes they were many white actors that got nominated at last year's Oscars and Smith did provide a good performance that could have been nominated, but I don't see any Asians or Hispanics complaining about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Additionally, it's not like Will Smith hasn't been nominated before, while also that he should be nominated on his merits and not because of his race. Moreover, let's not forget stats wise they are more whites working in Hollywood than any other race, so it makes sense that they would be favored just by looking at the numbers and not because people have racial biases all the time. Now should this change? Kind of, but it's better if it happens naturally with new films having stories about diverse array of groups and characters and with audiences choosing themselves who is the biggest movie star which stories they would like to experience. One decade it may be Arnold and Sly and another it could be Jackie Chan and Will Smith. Catch my drift.
It doesn't matter how much does American Football do damage, but that it does. The film accomplishes its goal of informing us of the attempts of a weird but productive individual that did what he thought was right in a country he thought would have accepted him for it.