At a time when most football fans are gearing up for Super Bowl 50, the movie Concussion has made itself impossible for even casual observers of the sport to ignore. The film, written and directed by Peter Landesman and largely based on Jeanne Marie Laskas' GQ article "Game Brain," centers on Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), the man who discovered the presence of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the autopsies of several former NFL players. Unsurprisingly, the doctor experiences some major roadblocks while trying to get his findings validated by league official and doctors. The portrayal of former footballers such as Mike Webster (in a deeply wounding performance from David Morse) tell the story of a traumatic injury with symptoms that are difficult to diagnose, and which leads to a crippling, maddening downfall for men who are discarded by the NFL after years of playing at full speed. Smith does some of the best work of his career as Dr. Omalu, a Nigerian immigrant who wants nothing more than to become a "true American" -- even after being exposed to the ugliest side of one of its most iconic institutions. Speaking in a thick accent, Smith moves out of his comfort zone and sheds much of the effortless, smooth-talking charm from his past roles. No matter: He shines here, expertly depicting Omalu's drive to do right by the deceased patients he had pledged to help. We acutely feel both his breakthroughs and his disappointments and fears, the latter arising when the NFL doesn't accept his findings and instead smears him and his colleagues. Concussion skillfully merges its dramatized scenes with heart-pounding in-game footage, which highlights the sport's beauty as well as its brutality. The always superb Albert Brooks provides some much needed levity as Dr. Cyril Wecht, the man who employed Omalu and gave him permission to proceed with his independent research on Webster's brain. As Dr. Julian Bailes, Omalu's champion and colleague, Alec Baldwin overcomes a shaky Southern accent to adequately portray a man who is torn between his love for the game and his desire to do the right thing (his scene with an ailing Webster is particularly affecting). Meanwhile, Gugu Mbatha-Raw does superb work as Omalu's cerebral wife Prema, who encourages his crusade even as pressure from the league and the public force the couple to uproot themselves from football-obsessed Pittsburgh to California. The NFL has often ended up on the wrong side of issues ranging from player safety to pensions to domestic abuse by its employees, and it fully deserves the film's scrutiny; that said, Concussion's moral righteousness and desire for heightened cinematic drama cause it to step on its own feet at various points. In a movie with no dearth of material to draw on, the melodramatic scenes between the Omalus and Dr. Bailes seem unnecessary at best, and treacly and distracting at worst. The film also fails to adequately address the efforts of real-life lawyer Bob Fitzsimmons, an ally of Omalu's who worked with players such as Webster to fight for disability payments that the NFL owed them following serious injuries. One of the men standing in Fitzsimmons' way was Dave Duerson (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), whom the movie depicts as a heartless NFL player-turned-consultant who denies the seriousness of CTE, essentially turning his back on his former teammates and colleagues. While Duerson certainly does not have a shining reputation among ex-players, some of his scenes in this film seem particularly callous, especially one that suggests that CTE-afflicted former Eagles safety Andre Waters committed suicide just after being rebuffed by Duerson on the street. There is certainly a story to be told about a player who tows the company line because of professional aspirations, but relegating Duerson to three scenes that cast him in a villainous light feels like a cop-out. Landesman had the potential to make a whistleblower drama of epic proportions here, but he frequently settles for Hollywood clichés instead of providing a deeper examination of this issue's underlying problems and possible solutions. In spite of these somewhat glaring flaws, Concussion is a pulsing, if uneven, drama that pays tribute to the efforts of a headstrong hero who helped reveal the potentially horrific cost of America's most popular sport.