The critical acclaim that Foxcatcher has received was hard to predict with Steve Carrel (Crazy, Stupid, Love) and Channing Tatum (Jupiter Ascending) in the lead roles of the intense true story, both of which being relatively unproven in such a serious movie. However, it’s all deserving praise, with both putting in very impressive performances, and for anyone that missed it at the big screen, it’s worth catching it on DVD or digital download now that it’s been released to see their incredible transformations to get into character.
The story is the dark and fascinating retelling of the notorious incidents surrounding team Foxcatcher, USA’s wrestling team in preparation for the 1987 World Championships and the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. At the centre of all this is millionaire philanthropist John E. du Pont (Carrell), who has bankrolled the team, recruiting first the youngest of the Olympic gold medal-winning Schultz brothers Mark, before eventually tempting older brother Dave to join the operation with his immense wealth.
That may not sound all that intense or interesting in itself, but there’s a lot more to the story that a medal bid as it slowly develops into a true life psychological drama that attempts to get under the skin of the people involved in the disturbing series of events. We’re trying not yo give too much away, but the long and short of it is that things got a whole lot more dark with complex emotions and unpredictable events before the film is done.
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman have written an exceptional script to build Foxcatcher around, with ratchet-wound dialogue, and director Bennett Miller (Moneyball) has managed to pull it all together with great skill to deliver a frighteningly powerful movie. He’s gone on to pick up a 2015 Academy Awards nomination and the Best Director award at the 2014 Cannes International film festival as a result, and a big part of his success is in the ferociously intense performances of Carrell and Tatum. He’s starting to pick up a reputation for getting the best out of comic actors, having done a similar thing with Jonah Hill in Moneyball.
While Tatum and Carrell are incredibly convincing throughout, they’re not entirely flawless. For the most part you completely buy into the characters they play, but once or maybe twice there’s just the briefest of wobbles that reminds you of who they are. However, Mark Rufullo (Avengers: Age Of Ultron) is without strings, taking on the role of the elder, more level headed older Schultz brother like it was second nature, using some brilliant body language and mannerisms to add depth to his character portrayal.
Sienna Miller is also pretty strong in the role of Mark’s wife, Nancy, along with Vanessa Redgrave as John du Pont’s mother. Neither of them have all that much time in front of the camera, but they manage to deliver the gravitas that each has on the events in the real life story.
A big part of the overall impact of the movie is the cinematography from director of photography, Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty). His selection of shots to convey the microcosm of small town America where Dave spends his life before he moves to the well funded facilities at Foxcatcher Ranch sets the tone for the movie right from the beginning. This is added to by the space invading camera positions used to convey the uncomfortable nature of the character interactions at times, and the movement of the camera during wrestling scenes is enough to make you feel like you’re right in on the grappling intensity yourself.
Foxcatcher is an exceptional true story adaptation that really gets into the grit of the situation. Watching it on DVD from the comfort of your own home only adds to the unnerving feel of the film which is at once easy to empathise with, while also feeling alien and otherworldly.
Foxcatcher DVD review: 4.1/5