A feeling of discomfort came over me. I knew it would, and yet from beginning to end I still felt terribly uneasy as the story of the Schultz brothers and their relationship with John E. Dupont (Steve Carell) unfolded in Bennett Miller’s latest film, Foxcatcher. The film paints a cold and eerie picture of the rise and fall of the Foxcatcher wrestling team born at the Dupont estate. John E. Dupont, contacts the youngest Shultz brother Mark (Channing Tatum) and convinces him that he will help him become the best in the world. Thus begins their tumultuous journey which ultimately results in both of their downfalls.
Based on true events, the film depicts the desperately sad and disturbing relationship between the two and also Mark’s elder and star brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), and intensely studies the characters with immense detail. The film shines for many reasons: visually it excels. The cinematography sets the scene in such a way that the viewer is completely and totally immersed in the action, feeling as close and uneasy as the characters do while still being as distant and cold as the air around them.
The music also emphasizes the spectral atmosphere looming over the film, blurring the lines between wrong and right, good and bad. Originally being merely based on a news story not celebrated by the youth of today, the narrative and plot are extremely developed and the characters extremely detailed, thus making it hard to believe that these peculiar events did indeed happen, very sadly so.
What makes the film shine the most is without a shadow of a doubt the portrayal of these characters. The three leads create a perverted love triangle and make for the most interesting leading ensemble in a long time. Channing Tatum shows his true talents here and proves that he is a lot more than a pretty face that can bust a move or two (remember Step Up, anyone?). He is truly moving as the extremely intense younger brother battling his demons in order to become “the best in the world” while dealing with his uneasy and prickly communication skills.
Portraying Mark’s protective and kind-hearted sensible older brother is the outstanding Mark Ruffalo. Almost unrecognizable here he manages to capture the protective wolf pack vibe without being prone to mockery through seemingly cliché interpretation. He gives a fair performance of a good, complex and extremely honest character.
Steve Carell makes Foxcatcher. He is utterly transformed; physically thanks to prosthetics and a fake nose but even on the inside he is a completely different man. Viewers who are used to his embarrassing and hilarious interpretations in slapstick comedies such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin or even Anchorman are absolutely blown away by this man’s literal metamorphosis in the film.
He becomes his character: patriotic, power-hungry and worryingly isolated, John Dupont wishes to call himself a father figure, a coach and a leader and yet emanates fear more than anything and is obsessed with domination. His obsession ultimately drives him to insanity and costs him everything he and the Schultz brothers have built. Bennett Miller’s direction creates an intoxicating chemistry between the trio, unsettling and absolutely outstanding.
Foxcatcher is an extremely intense film. Never overly ostentatious nor upsettingly outrageous, it still manages to profoundly move you. It is the type of film that deserves a second or even third viewing, as it may be difficult to grasp all of the many subtleties when watching it for the first time. You may breathe a sigh of relief at the end of Foxcatcher, not because as a viewer you have finally been put out of your misery, but because the characters themselves have.
Originally published on Epigram