Foxcatcher: Blu Ray Review
Released by Roadshow Home Ent
Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.
And in Foxcatcher, the simple fact is that the true crime explored within is nothing more than intensely disturbing.
It's the story of Channing Tatum's Olympic gold winning athlete Mark Schultz, a veritable gorilla of a man with a jutting jaw, and an increasing feeling of alienation and lack of self-worth. Having won the gold with his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), Mark finds himself living alone, feasting on two-minute noodles and giving hollow speeches to school assemblies about what it takes to win a gold.
With his brother settled into wrestling coaching, Mark's listless and is contacted by John Du Pont (an unrecognisable Steve Carell, complete with prosthetic nose, stooped poise and swerving gaze) to come and coach a group of wrestlers with the aim of winning an Olympic gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Mark accepts, finding something of a kindred spirit in du Pont's apparent benevolence and patriotism and moves into the estate. But, when Du Pont insists on bringing his brother to work in the gym, the quest and its subsequent journey is a mere catalyst for what comes next.
Foxcatcher is a deeply unsettling, an aloof and disturbed movie that's likely to haunt you for days to come.
Miller (who directed Capote and Moneyball) has constructed something minimalist and almost aloof that challenges as much as it chills and creeps. By refusing to delve too deeply into the background of Dupont or the Schulz brothers (we never fully know whether Mark's so resentful of his brother or if there was a bust up) and by using a controlled and measured method, Miller's made it that you have to work to get the reward out of the intense, slow-burning fear of dread that gnaws away at you as this claustrophobic drama plays out. Scenes of wrestling, lingering looks and silence (both spoken and from the soundtrack) say more than reams of on-screen exposition ever would.
At its centre is a career-U-turn of the highest order from Steve Carell, whose pallid exterior and prosthetic nose demeanour seek to disguise the actor from everything you've ever experienced from him - a la Charlize Theron in Monster. Every scene that he's in moves a little closer to making you feel uncomfortable as this fascinating story plays out and as Dupont insinuates his way into Mark's life. But, there are moments when Dupont transcends the creepy weird benefactor who never blinks once in a scene tag; a moment when he explains to his mother what he's doing and her visit to the gym ache with a subtext that's sublime - and one scene where he frees horses is the closest to a release the character gets (though even that drips with a dread that's ever present).
Equally, Tatum channels desperation, frustration and an inability to externalise Mark's opinions with an expert touch. Hunched and ape-like, Mark's vulnerability, grunting and aching desire to find something to desperately cling to are brilliantly realised because of both his acting and Miller's camera hanging on him awkwardly. Likewise, Ruffalo's brother says more with a few looks than any words could do; scenes where his concern for his brother are evident but can't be expressed are excellently committed to the screen - all of the players in this bizarre piece bring their A game.
While Miller plays a little fast and loose with some of the facts of the case (the denouement wisely omits a siege and trial), the slow-burning tension actually produces a richer character tapestry as a result. The subsequent histrionics of such an ending would only provide a deeper understanding of why DuPont was how he was - but by withholding those, there's more a cinematic sense of unease which is commendable.
Restrained, tragic and minimal, Foxcatcher is easily the most uncomfortable film of the year.But it's also the most impressive thanks to two career-redefining turns from Carell and Tatum, which drip with poignancy.