Directed and written by Peter Landesman, this film chronicles Dr. Bennet Omalu’s discovery of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in professional football players. The film is based on the article in GQ magazine “Game Brain” written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. Dr. Amalu (well-played by Will Smith), a Nigerian immigrant who is now an American citizen, is a true American hero. He made a brilliant discovery and then had the courage and integrity to take on and defeat the NFL. The film is nuanced, well-balanced and isn’t a simple morality tale.
Dr. Omalu is working as a Coroner in Pittsburgh, a city that loves its Steelers. A revered 50-year-old (retired) all-pro Steeler Center, Mike Webster (David Morse), gradually goes insane and dies. Omalu does a comprehensive autopsy (using $20,000 of his own money to do it) and discovers CTE. After the subsequent early deaths of three other Steeler players, with the help of his boss/mentor, Cyril Wecht (a terrific Albert Brooks), and the former Steeler team physician Julian Bailes (Alec Baldwin), Omalu gets enough medical evidence from their brain biopsies to irrefutably prove that repeated head trauma from playing football causes CTE. This brain disease causes memory loss, aggressive outbursts, depression, paranoia, and even hallucinations. Unfortunately, many more retired NFL players will eventually suffer from this disease.
This is an informative and entertaining film which is worth seeing even if you aren’t a football fan. Whether the NFL will survive with this serious problem is “up-in-the-air.”