Concussion joins the small collection of investigative films arriving at the end of 2015, with Spotlight and Truth and the German picture Labyrinth of Lies. This one might actually move the needle on its subject. The true story chronicled here looks at Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born forensic pathologist who established a connection between football and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. That research has already led to changes in NFL rules and increased scrutiny of former players. All those shots to the head, all those concussions—acknowledged or, frequently, not—have created a class of ex-players struggling with depression, erratic behavior, and memory loss.
The only interesting thing about Parkland is that it exists. And it exists because of our collective unwillingness to let go of what happened on November 22, 1963, the day a young prince died and a still-unresolved mystery began.
Culled from Vincent Bugliosi’s 2007 book Four Days in November, the movie presents narrow-gauge vignettes, acted out by supporting players in Dallas during the tragedy. Supporting players, but not peripheral. The most gripping section of the film unfolds at Parkland Hospital, where an unsuspecting overtime ER crew deals with the arrival of a U.S. president with a severe head wound. Marcia Gay Harden contributes her granite professionalism as the nurse on duty; although here, as in other episodes, the cast tends toward the TV-guest-star vein, with Zac Efron and Colin Hanks also pulling duty. (Hanks’ dad, Tom, produced the film.)