Will Smith looks to win his first Academy Award with “Concussion”

Will Smith Concussion
When you take a look at the Best Actor race this year, you really do see it as a clash between contenders who seem overdue for an Oscar. There’s of course presumed frontrunner Leonardo DiCaprio, poised to win for The Revenant since predictions for this year began, along with other hopefuls such as Johnny Depp for Black Mass. The other really notable player is Will Smith for Concussion, who is as due an Academy Award as anyone else in the hunt. With Concussion set to open this week, I wanted to take a look at Smith’s chances, as well as that of the film itself…

Will Smith Concussion  field
What is Concussion about, you ask? Well, the movie is a dramatized look at an issue the NFL is struggling with right now, namely how dangerous concussions are for their players, centering on the discovery of the problem itself. Smith stars here as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who brought the issue up for the first time to the league. Omalu was a forensic neuropathologist in Pittsburgh who made the first discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, a football-related brain trauma, or in short, the damage a concussion can do to a human being. He found it in pro players and brought it to the league, beginning a David vs. Goliath story over what to do next, with the All American sport pushing back against the immigrant doctor as lives literally hang in the balance. Peter Landesman writes and directs, while the cast, aside from Smith, includes Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Alec Baldwin, Albert Brooks, Eddie Marsan, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Morse, Stephen Moyer, Luke Wilson, and more. If it winds up being able to stand out from the holiday season release pack, this one could very well capture the attention of the nation, potentially changing sports.

The film is solid enough, with the main selling point being Smith’s performance, alongside wonderful supporting turns from Albert Brooks and especially David Morse. Brooks is a bit of welcome levity in an otherwise heavy flick, while Morse breaks your heart in just a few scenes as doomed former Steelers great and Hall of Famer Mike Webster. Smith will get all of the acclaim, but he’s hardly the only one doing praise worthy work here. Still, you can’t deny that this is among his best performances to date, and while it’s perhaps not flashy enough to win him that Oscar, if voters decide that his time is now, it would be a hard decision to argue with.

concussion will smith alec baldwin
Awards wise, I think it’s likely Smith or bust for Concussion, but I’m sure Sony has a hefty campaign already in place (I’ve already seen Smith in action and boy, can he charm a crowd). Nominations, however unlikely some might be, will be sought in Best Picture, Best Director (for Landsman), Best Actor (for Smith), Best Supporting Actor (for Baldwin, Brooks, and/or Morse), Best Supporting Actress (for Mbatha-Raw), Best Adapted Screenplay (also for Landsman), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Hairstyling & Makeup, and Best Original Score. Even though some of the supporting cast is excellent, it’ll be Smith in Actor or nothing at all for this one, unless a technical category nomination (likely Hairstyling & Makeup) comes through. Barring a tech citation, it’s one and done at best here, with Smith though having the potential to win if he can manage to get nominated.

In the end, it will be up to audiences this weekend to determine if Concussion is a major player or not. Some members of the Academy will surely back it, but if it’s a financial disappointment, that will really hurt, or even cripple, Smith’s chances at a win. We’ll have to see what happens, but if you remove it from the awards season equation, this remains a solid and important picture that’s worth seeing. We’ll have to stay tuned to see how Smith does throughout the rest of the precursors, but this is one more contender that’s well deserving of a viewing if you ask me…

Be sure to check out Concussion, in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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