Sunday, 1 February 2015

Film Review: Foxcatcher



Foxcatcher is the chilling true story of three men on a collision course - fuelled by a passion for wrestling and the desire to succeed, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) and billionaire tycoon John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) are all training hard for the 1988 Seoul Olympics when but their conflicting ideals set them on a path for disaster.

Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball), Foxcatcher is a story about two brothers, Mark and Dave, who both wrestle for a living - the story picks them up one year after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games where they both won a gold medal for the United States. Hooray! Except, not really - this isn't a happily ever after kind of deal.

Truth is, Mark feels as though he has forever lived his life in the shadow of his older brother, and wishes to strike out on his own - so, when billionaire businessman and wrestling aficionado John Du Pont arrives with an offer he can't refuse - $25,000 a year and unlimited training resources for the next Games - Mark is quick to up stakes and move onto Du Pont's vast estate.

It's here that an intricate psychological game of chess starts to unfold as Du Pont manipulates Mark for his agenda and we discover he'll stop at nothing to get what he wants. Foxcatcher is definitely one of those 'you wouldn't believe it if it weren't true' kind of films. That the story and these characters are drawn from real events serves to enhance how chilling and suspenseful it is at times.

Firstly, Bennett Miller's direction suits the haunting tone down to the ground. From the vivid primary colours of the Team Foxcatcher gym to the cold greys and whites surrounding the estate, Miller's camerawork frames the sense of dread and foreboding brilliantly. I also really liked how the film kept the score to a minimum - long stretches of this film are played out in near silence and the result is something uniquely atmospheric and poignant.

Steve Carrell, who is nominated for Best Actor in this year's Academy Awards, is a revelation as the manipulative and quietly calculating John Du Pont. With or without the prosthetics, Carrell delivers a performance that is unlike anything we've seen from him before. You start to look beyond the actor and just see the character, making this usually dopey comic that extra bit unsettling.

Meanwhile, Channing Tatum continues to display the kind of range that makes him one of the best young actors working today - from self-parody in 22 Jump Street to action (White House Down) and space opera (Jupiter Ascending), Tatum's muted and brooding performance in Foxcatcher is some of the finest work he's done yet. A lot of his performance is hidden behind his cold, tortured eyes and isn't overtly stated, meaning the subtleties on his face say a lot.

Ruffalo (who is nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category) is also fantastic - the arc he undergoes is one of the most intriguing as he's thrust back and forth between his brother, his family and Du Pont.

The film deals with a lot of heavy themes such as wealth, manhood, ego, patriotism and success. It's a complex web of ideas that reveal themselves as the plot plows forward. Again, a lot of what the film is trying to say isn't explicitly stated and it's how the audience reads the characters that uncovers the subtle messaging beneath the cold stares and set jaws. When put together, these elements make for a thought-provoking and delicate thriller that gets under your skin and stays there.

My only criticism was that the film felt rather long - I know that it all adds to the tension, but there are long portions of this film that could've been reigned in. That and the fact that Mark Ruffalo's family (Sienna Miller plays his wife) weren't as important or integral as you'd hope. As a result, Foxcatcher is a bit of a sausage fest (kinda like this year's Oscar race in general then!).

The Verdict: 8/10


Foxcatcher is a thoughtful film that takes its time in building towards one of the most shocking and emotional final acts you'll see this year. All three leads give fantastic performances, but the real star of the show is Bennett Miller's foreboding and eerie direction.

6 comments:

  1. Great review! I thought very much the same as you, I really enjoyed it but it was just far too long!
    - Allie

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    1. Thanks Allie! :) At least the length contributed to character development? But yeah, some parts could've been trimmed...

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  2. I really can't wait to see this. I read the script early last year, and was mesmerized. Love your review.

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    1. Thanks mate! :) Ahh, but spoilers! Not knowing the ending certainly heightened by enjoyment of the film - not sure how I'd feel if I already knew the resolution. Still, hope you enjoy it!

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  3. Well the director's cut for this was 4h long so....:) It was a slowburning movie but I'm glad you liked it, the acting was just so phenomenal. Loved Carrel in it, he really is very versatile and talented.

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    1. Whoa, four hours?! No thank you, even 2 and a bit was a little too much! Yeah Carrell was a real surprise huh? It's a role that transcends the make-up he has to plaster for sure. Thanks for commenting Sati! :)

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