Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller
Directors face difficult challenges when bringing true-life stories to the big screen, especially when that story is topical or recent. In the case of Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher, that task seems so calculated and beautifully fulfilled. Featuring some of the most impressive performances this year, Foxcatcher is a slow-building and encapsulating success in American filmmaking.
In the late 1980's to early 1990's, two brothers flew onto the seen as accomplished wrestling champions. Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) was the younger of the two, and easily more impressionable. Upon earning a name in the athletic community, Schultz is whisked away to the du Pont compound and enticed into sponsorship by the multimillionaire John E. du Pont (Steve Carrell). This sponsorship came with a nice yearly salary, living quarters on the du Pont property, and a training facility solely devoted to Schultz's training. Given the chance to build his own team, Schultz tries to enlist his older brother and wrestling partner, David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). David isn't keen on uprooting his family, so Mark begins the transition to Team Foxcatcher mostly on his own. With the very close help of the strange and focused du Pont, Mark begins working towards the Olympic team trials. The relationship between Mark and du Pont is eerily shaky. The culmination of hard work and its payoff leads both down two very similar, but different, emotional paths.
Miller, the master of other focused dramas like Capote and Moneyball, displays his ability to fully capture the essence of surroundings and the complexity of emotions in each beautiful shot of his films. The drab nature of each setting is at once overwhelming while holding true to its own loneliness. The focus on character is just as important and Miller draws out great performances by all involved. Carrell is the most notable, not only for his physical transformation, thanks to prosthetic makeup, but also his centered delivery of each and every piece of dialogue. There are still a few Carrell tendencies that sneak through here and there, but it's mostly a solid piece of acting work, leaning away from just clever caricature. Along with Carrell, Ruffalo is receiving a lot of awards buzz for his equally brilliant turn as the family man David. Clear dedicated work went in to each portrayal, as evidenced in the gestures and posture each person displays. The surprising strongest link in the story comes from Tatum. His career may be a mismatch of comedies, dance films, and the occasional dramatic work, but in Foxcatcher he shows off his true talents. There are stories about how worn out each actor was at the end of this shoot, and watching the film gives good reason as to why.
The pace of the film is slow, but rewarding. It never feels overly pushed or overly drawn out. The emotional draw is in how rich this story is. That wouldn't be the case if the film's heart was worn on its sleeve. Films featuring deep character studies must have other elements to back it up and Foxcatcher does not disappoint. As a true-life story, Foxcatcher seems to not indulge itself with too many tabloid-ready moments. Miller sticks to the book without needing extra fluff. After all, real life is always more exciting than made-up life.
As a heartbreaking tale masked in, what should be, inspiration, Foxcatcher is a subtle glimpse at the cusp of where society used to be, pre-internet, and where society is at today. Celebrity worship is dangerous. It doesn't matter how much money you have.
Runtime: 134 minutes