Saturday, 10 January 2015

Foxcatcher (2014)

A bleak drama that often forces viewers to watch moments unfold in uncomfortable silence, Foxcatcher is a riveting piece of work, benefiting from three fantastic central performances - from Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell.

Based on a horrible true story, that I'll try not to entirely reveal here (for those unaware of it), this is a look at John du Pont (Carell), a rich man who created the Foxcatcher training facility to help the wrestlers of America, namely one Mark Schultz (Tatum). Mark always seemed to be stuck in his brother's shadow, and Foxcatcher looks like the chance to make a name for himself. But his new boss also wants his brother (David, played by Ruffalo), and his new boss tends to get what he wants. Things start to get very tense, depite David trying to play peacemaker between du Pont and his brother, and the glorious future that they all began to dream about starts to look less and less likely.

Director Bennett Miller sets out his stall early on, allowing viewers to decide whether they're willing to jump in for the long haul or whether they won't be up to the task. The film is so still and, for the most part, quiet that it helps to maintain a constant feeling of unease. You know that any sudden movement or noise is going to be a bit of a shock. The script, written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, is light on dialogue for most of the 130 minute (approx) runtime, but that doesn't mean that it's light on information and characterisation. This is a film in which the things that are unsaid are just as, if not more, important as those that are said. And each character has specific body language that speaks volumes.

Tatum and Ruffalo are both on top form, the former showing his lack of self-confidence, and purpose, while the latter knows where he wants his life to go, and already has a wife and children to consider in his plans. Carell, working under some fantastic make-up, gives the kind of performance that should allow him the choice of more dramatic roles further down the line. John du Pont is a man who often acts like a child. He can throw money around to get whatever he wants, be it a specific item, person or even friendship. Everything has a price, apart from the thing that he craves the most, which is approval from his mother (Vanessa Redgrave). Anthony Michael Hall does well in a small role, playing the right hand man to du Pont, and Sienna Miller has a handful of scenes as Nancy Schultz, wife of David.

The main problem with Foxcatcher is the feeling that the whole story could have been told in a much shorter amount of time. I understand that the steady, measured approach helps the material immensely, but it also feels as if things are being dragged out for far too long. Those who know the outcome of this tale may well have less patience than someone who knew nothing about it, like myself.

Well worth your time, it's just a shame that Miller seems so concerned about treating the story with the proper respect and tone that it deserves that he forgets to make some choices that might benefit the cinematic treatment of the material.


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