Based on true events, Nigerian-born Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a university researcher and forensic pathologist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. When former Steelers great Mike Webster (David Morse) develops dementia and dies, homeless, in 2002, Omalu discovers through brain-tissue analysis that “Iron Mike” had sustained significant brain trauma, a condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
After finding the same injury when analyzing the brain tissue of other deceased football players (some of whom committed suicide), he publishes his findings in the journal Neurosurgery in 2005 and 2006.
These articles attract the unfavorable attention of the National Football League and others calling for Omalu to retract his findings. NFL lawyers accuse him of an anti-football bias because he doesn’t know, understand, or like the game—therefore, his conclusions cannot be true. But Omalu clings to his integrity and scientific evidence, which cannot be refuted.
Despite the unfavorable attention he receives—which includes death threats—his parish priest asks him to take in Prema (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a nurse who recently arrived from Africa. As time passes, they fall in love and marry.
Concussion is a fascinating investigative medical drama. Will Smith is excellent as Omalu, who wants to help people by making his findings known. The film is likely to irritate the NFL further because parents may think twice about letting their children play this contact sport that, by its nature, is an occasion for devastating injuries.
A-3, PG-13 ■ Disturbing images and language.
It is the early 1950s. Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) is leaving her home in Ireland because her sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott), asks a priest to find Eilis work in New York. Rose knows that their widowed mother is manipulative and needy, and she wants more for her little sister than working at the local bakery. Eilis, scared but hopeful, makes the journey.
Eilis rooms in a Brooklyn boardinghouse run by Madge (Julie Walters). Though extremely timid, Eilis becomes a sales assistant in a Manhattan department store.
She meets Tony (Emory Cohen) at an Irish dance at the parish, and soon he takes her home to meet the family. He proposes and Eilis agrees. But devastating news arrives from Ireland: a close family member has died. Eilis believes she must return home for a visit. The couple secretly marry at city hall before she departs.
In Ireland, Eilis tells no one that she is married and accepts the attentions of a young man with prospects, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson). Suddenly, Ireland does not seem as hopeless as before. Tony sends letters that Eilis puts in a drawer. She is caught in a conflict between her mother, her conscience, and Ireland.
Brooklyn is a beautiful film that highlights the inner struggles of a Catholic immigrant in post-World War II America. Viewers may also be reminded of the current crisis of Syrian refugees looking for new homes and opportunities.
Ronan’s performance is subtle and heartfelt.
A-2, PG-13 ■ A scene of nonexplicit sexuality and brief language.
A revenant is a ghost that returns from the grave to scare the living. In director-cowriter Alejandro González Iñárritu’s new film, the spirit of Hugh Glass’ Native American wife, killed by French soldiers, continues to guide Glass and their son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), as they assist American trappers near the Rocky Mountains in the 1820s.
When Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is mauled by a grizzly bear, Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and Bridger (Will Poulter) agree to stay with him and his son until he dies. The three will then join the rest of the group trying to outrun Indians. But Fitzgerald secretly kills Hawk and buries Glass alive. He survives and makes his way through hostile terrain to find vengeance for his son.
Based on a true story, The Revenant is a terrifying story of survival. Iñárritu, a Catholic, places the narrative in the spiritual and the supernatural. Although the film attempts to leave vengeance to God, Glass helps it along.
In a story filled with victims and perpetrators, the bear is truly the innocent one because she acts according to instincts. The natural and unnatural violence is relentless, though there are profound moments.
L, R ■ Extreme violence, peril, language, and gore.