Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
Running time: 134 minutes
Release date: January 9th
With 2011’s Moneyball, director Bennett Miller gave us a film that, while really quite good, was let down by the fact that it required a relatively functional knowledge of the sport of baseball in order to invest in its central drama. Despite being another true-life sports movie, Foxcatcher is a different animal. Although it revolves around wrestling – specifically Olympic gold-winning brothers Mark and Dave Schultz’s relationship with millionaire John du Pont – it ultimately has little to do with the intricacies of the sport. This is a story of wrestling with one’s own inadequacy, fighting for recognition and approval from a seemingly ignorant world. It’s a human drama which pits men against each other in arenas far outside a dusty ring drawn on a floor.
Critics of Channing Tatum who see nothing more than a set of glistening abs topped with the troglodytic features of a befleshened Easter Island statue will imagine it no stretch for him to play a lunkheaded goon. However, he portrays Mark Schultz with a considered guardedness and intensity that makes one sympathetic to his plight, if not to the man himself. Tatum has put in some good turns before in movies like Side Effects and the little-seen 10 Years, but this is undoubtedly his best work.
There is one big talking point with this film of course, and with good reason. Once the oddness of the prosthetics wears off and your mind tunes out his unmistakable line delivery, Steve Carell is truly brilliant. As philanthropist, ornithologist and ‘wrestling coach’ of Team Foxcatcher, his John du Pont is a true creep who haunts every frame of the film. He is a phantom whose presence and threat can be felt in the mind of the other characters even when he is not on the screen. Believing himself the embodiment of the American dream, he fails to see as the audience does that he is instead a parody of his beloved nation, a pathetic buffoon whose dark heart threatens to show itself as he consistently fails to get what he wants. While Carell’s performance is the film’s greatest strength, his character best represents its one weakness as it gets a little heavy-handed with its themes and ideas.
While the trio of Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo are excellent, Foxcatcher is more than an acting showcase. It’s a tale of greed and excess, of loneliness and desire, of ambition and failure. However concrete the facts of the story are, we are left in no doubt as to how the will to succeed can drive people to the edge and indeed, tragically, over it.