Like religion, sport and its culture often act as the magnet that brings together individuals, families and whole communities. To criticise either, can put you in the firing line of some pretty passionate objection. Will Smith (Dyslexic) found this out first hand when he took on the role of Dr. Bennet Omalu, in his latest biopic, ‘Concussion.’

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In ‘Concussion’ Smith plays real life forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu. While conducting an autopsy on NFL legend Mike Webster. Omalu discovers, the impact trauma associated with the sport can cause neurological deterioration similar to that of Alzheimer’s. When Dr. Omalu publishes his findings and campaigns to raise awareness . The NFL aggressively deny and try to silence his findings with grave consequences for his colleagues and family.

Over the years Smith has impressively shed the ‘smooth talking, ladies’ man’ typecasting of his early career. As he matures as a man and an actor, he is consistently nailing some solid and believable performances, especially when it comes to his portrayal of real life figures. By all accounts Smith seems to have embraced the role of Dr. Omalu. Even so, this was a role that smith was initially apprehensive about taking on. “I was deeply conflicted about this. I’m a football dad, I grew up in Philly with my Philadelphia Eagles and there was a part of me that did not want to be the guy that brought this information out” (Smith).

The controversy that this film stirs, somewhat fuels the flames of the debate currently raging around safety in U.S. football. But for Smith the films subject matter caused an uneasiness much closer to home. When thinking about his own son’s stint as a U.S. football player Smith recalls, “We were concerned about him braking a leg…we were concerned about spinal injury, that was the big thing, but not once in the four years that he played, did it

[brain trauma] even come up. I felt hurt by that as a parent, I felt like I wasn’t doing my job”.

Although Will Smith’s performance in this film won him actor of the year, at the Hollywood Film Awards and scored him a nomination for best actor, at the Golden Globes, thoughts on the film as a whole have been pretty middle of the road. “Hardly mandatory pre-Super Bowl viewing for football junkies” (Rolling Stone), “lacks the exciting filmmaking that rises to the level of its outrageous topic” (New York Times), ‘Concussion isn’t a great biopic but it tells a great story’ (screen Rant).

Whether or not the film is to your liking, you have to admire the cajones of the studio releasing such a divisive film, knowing it’s promotion would rub right up against the run up to the Super Bowl, the biggest event in U.S. football.

Concussion is on general release from 12th February.

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