The discovery of a football-related brain trauma and the NFL’s attempts to obfuscate the severity of the problem will be the focus of a new drama titled Concussion, which released its first trailer on Monday 10 days before the 2015 season kicks off. In the film, Smith plays Nigerian-born Dr. Bennet Omalu, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine who discovered the link between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and football players. Concussion, written and directed by investigative journalist-turned-filmmaker Peter Landesman, hits theaters December 25th.
Omalu first found the brain trauma in Mike Webster, a retired Pittsburgh Steeler who suffered from dementia and depression after his playing career. Webster died in 2002 at the age of 50; an examination of his brain uncovered the first diagnosis of CTE. (David Morse portrays Webster in Concussion.)
Omalu’s research brings him into the crosshairs of the NFL, a multi-billion dollar business. “You’re going to war with a corporation that owns a day of the week,” Albert Brooks’ Dr. Cyril Wecht, a real forensic pathologist, warns Smith’s Omalu. The movie also features Luke Wilson playing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alec Baldwin as neurosurgeon Julian Bailes.
Concussion also finds actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in the role of two-time Super Bowl-winning safety Dave Duerson, who purposely shot himself in the chest and killed himself in 2011 so he could donate his brain to CTE research. The Boston University School of Medicine later determined that Duerson suffered from the degenerative neurological disease that plagues many athletes. “Repetitive head trauma chokes the brain,” Smith’s Omalu says in the trailer.