Dir: Bennet Miller
For those of you unaware of the fascinating story of wrestling gold medalist brothers Mark and Dave Schultz and the obsessive billionaire John Du Pont who would support their training for the 1988 Olympics should head into Bennet Miller‘s Foxcatcher very much in the dark. He’s going to take you there anyway with this affecting and powerfully acted tale of greed, corruption and, yes, the poisonous American dream. Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum as the soft-spoken brothers and an unrecognisable Steve Carrell as Du Pont make Foxcatcher a compelling watch and a sure-fire favourite in the quickly approaching awards season.
Foxcatcher (named after Du Pont’s vast family estate) is an intensely physical piece of work. Ruffalo and Tatum’s dedication to their roles can be seen from frame one; The pair hulk and sulk around each other in their real life as they do on the mat and when Mark is pinned by his older brother in an early training scene the actors say pages about their characters relationship without speaking a word. When the bread line living Mark is seduced out of the shadow of his more famous brother by Du Pont he’s suddenly out there alone, fighting for himself, under the watchful eye of one of the most creepy father figures imaginable.
Carell’s depiction of (and Miller’s interest in) Du Pont is certainly the centre piece to Foxcatcher‘s unease. When you do finally see the ornithologist and philanthropist (Miller holds his face from us for quite a while) he peers down his bird-like nose at Mark like a disregarding parent. But, John, regarded by his horse breeding mother (Vanessa Redgrave) as a family failure, sees a kind of kindred spirit in this quiet, almost ape like figure. It’s when Dave finally joins them on the Pennsylvania estate with his family that the true destructive nature of this father/son arrangement comes to light and Foxcatcher digs us even deeper into this complex three-way relationship.
Miller’s knack for psychological tension is the films secret weapon; Mark’s admiration for his brother is underpinned by a quiet resentment, Dave’s protective attitude towards his little brother comes with a hint of disappointment and Du Pont’s beady eyes, as he watches both of them, are a storm of confusion, jealousy and sadness. The director seems to have known and plotted every little movement and look; But that’s not to say Foxcatcher feels stilted or staged. Tatum’s explosion in a hotel is shockingly wild, Ruffalo’s soft voice and demeanour is perfect casting and Carell removes the shackles of his comedic buffoonery with a perfectly chilling performance.