Published on January 4th, 2015 | by Allan Brown4
Movie Review: Foxcatcher (2015)
Running Time: 134 mins
Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo,Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller
Back in January 1996, John du Pont (the son of one of America’s wealthiest families) made headline news in a spine-chilling incident that sent shock-waves around the world. Now almost 19 years later, director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) examines the psychological drama and surrounding events, that led up to the bizarre and tragic chapter at the Foxcatcher Farm in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
24 year old Mark Schultz won a gold medal for Wrestling in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Now 3 years on, Mark lives on the poverty line, a lost soul, alone, scratching out a dismal existence with the loose change he makes from the occasional motivational lectures at local elementary schools. Despite his crowning achievement in sport, Mark still finds it difficult to escape the shadow of his older brother, Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) (also an Olympic gold medallist) and the need for the emotional support he offers.
However, when Mark receives an unexpected phone call from billionaire and avid wrestling enthusiast; John du Pont (Steve Carell), he is enticed by the offer of an attractive Salary, accommodation and the use of the first class training facility on the Foxcatcher estate.
As Du Pont readies Mark and the Foxcatcher wrestling team for the Seoul Olympics in 1988, he hopes a victory will seal the approval, love and respect he so desperately seeks from his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave).
Bennett Miller successfully creates an ominous and unwavering tension that refuses to dissipate
But du Pont isn’t satisfied with being a mere sponsor for the team, and although his primitive understanding for the sport makes him little more than a keen enthusiast or wealthy admirer, he wants to front the team and be acknowledged as the head coach and counsellor for his squad of athletes.
Thus, when Dave Schultz arrives at the Foxcatcher farm to help drive his brother Mark and the team to victory, an ominous jealous begins to brew. Dave Schultz is the epitome of a successful coach; he’s a strong leader, keenly knowledgeable on the sport and a deeply supportive mentor, something du Pont is not, yet wishes he could be. And so, tension begins to build as du Pont’s inner demons begin to surface.
Director Bennett Miller successfully creates an ominous and unwavering tension that refuses to dissipate throughout the narrative. Even the lighter moments feel shaded by an unmistakable sense of foreboding, and Steve Carell captures the very essence of the man in a sensational career defining performance.
Although (the almost unrecognisable) Carell plays it subtle, his cold presence on screen is utterly intoxicating as he carries a dark cloud of unpredictability with him wherever he goes. Like Robin Williams in ‘One Hour Photo’, Carell presents a very uncomfortable and eerie watch, but one you will be utterly transfixed by. Not since Hannibal Lector graced the silver screen in 1991, has a character made me feel so uncomfortable.
Channing Tatum also offers an intense breakthrough performance as the emotionally repressed Olympic champion Mark Schultz. His role and character arc is fascinating to watch unfold, as are his many interactions with du Pont (Carell). Their scenes together are utterly absorbing as we watch du Pont increasingly manipulate Schultz, bending him to his own will, and Tatum handles the emotional roller-coaster and confusion his character experiences with utter authenticity.
Not since Hannibal Lector graced the silver screen in 1991, has a character made me feel so uncomfortable.
Mark Ruffalo offers an exceptional portrayal as his older brother Dave Schultz. Not only does he embody the warmth and grounded sensibilities of a supportive brother and mentor, required for the portrayal, but the normally lean actor underwent a bulk-tastic transformation for the part, packing muscle that could have easily given his Marvel alter-ego a run for his money.
All three performances are crowing achievements in acting, each complex, unique and most importantly; subtle. Every look, facial expression and silent interaction feel personal, registering with absolute sincerity, giving an open window into the soul of these fraught and trouble men.
As final credits rolled I remained seated, stunned and utterly drained from intensity I had just witnessed on screen. It can only be said, Miller – along with three exceptional performances – has crafted one of the strongest character dramas I have seen in recent memory. It is a cold, solemn and an extremely uncomfortable watch, which at times feels more akin to a horror film, but then this is all part of the experience intended and Miller executes each and every scene with such skill and conviction, it will leave no doubt this crowning cinematic achievement will be showered with accolades come award season.
Summary: Along with a plethora of breath-taking performances, Bennett Miller sets a new benchmark, orchestrating one of the finest and most unsettling character dramas in recent times.