Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
Runtime: 134 minutes
FOXCATCHER is a suitably wintry drama for this time of year, much less festive cheer than baring the stark bleakness of a snowstorm and overall it is all the better for it. From director and recent “go to guy for a classy modern biopic” Bennett Miller and based on true events the film finds rather than follows Mark Schultz, an aimless wrestler who forms an unexpected relationship with his new sponsor, millionaire John du Pont, while training for the 1988 Olympics. This union leads to troubling circumstances as both men feel inferior to Mark’s revered older brother Dave.
FOXCATCHER leads as an impressive performance piece revolving uneasily around a trifecta of quietly wounded males. The lumbering grace Channing Tatum naturally enacts is tragic, employing an introversion of that of a zoo confined gorilla, whilst onlookers praise his strength and focus, Mark is visibly at heart, lost and naive, and Tatum shines wholly embodying the role. Mark Ruffalo is equally as organic as his thankless and ever supportive older brother, whilst occasionally on the verge of being written as a touch too saintlike the skillfull actor keeps Dave just the right distance from saccharine and firmly sincere.
It is Steve Carrell as Du Pont who is the talk of tinsel-town and understandably so as his transformation is the most extreme aesthetically and tonally. His is the performance many will ultimately rest the success of their experience of FOXCATCHER upon, already having sparked some low-key scepticism. But it is fair to say he pulls off the character of Du Pont extremely well. Perhaps it is not the biggest stretch for the comic actor being that Du Pont is a straight up eccentric, a calm and mumbling one albeit but an oddball none the less with an eeriness that he captures thoroughly. Vanessa Redgrave as the frail Du Pont matriarch who serves as a foil to her son’s ‘low’ aspirations is welcome support if a little under used, but this film is not merely about Du Pont’s delusions of grandeur and his issues living up to his powerful lineage, after all stories featuring these themes are abundant in cinema. This film is far more centred on Mark Schultz along with the fragility of American ambition and the loneliness, pride and obsession that so often come with the territory.
Although the film never exactly feels fast paced it does avoid dragging, no mean feat considering a somewhat unapproachable tone and the looseness of the way the sparse events play out. Aussie cinematographer Greig Fraser does a solid job with stoic photography, the entire look of the film compliments the mood and the constant discomfort shared between everyone on-screen. From the primary colours and sweat of the wrestling training sessions to the cold expanse of the Foxcatcher estate there is a minimal yet tense style that serves the situations well.
FOXCATCHER is a restrained and contrasting film, being cohesively both distant and intimate at once. The strong performances across the board keep you at arms length whilst beckoning your curiosity within close quarters, awkward gazes and ego fuelling or eradicating interactions in and out of the ring. An assured and subtle film that holds its wealth in detail, namely that of the fine character acting from the 3 varied leads.
FOXCATCHER is icy and uncomfortable but this is completely to its credit, yet it is also affecting, unexpectedly humorous and very well crafted and most notably for a potential Oscar contender nicely bizarre.
FOXCATCHER is released in cinemas in the UK 9th January, 2015