JUDGING from the billing alone – with Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo on board – you’d be forgiven for expecting Foxcatcher to offer some manner of quirky, good-natured dramedy – however, nothing could be further from the truth.
In what is bound to turn out to be one of the most singular and disquieting films of the year, director Bennett Miller brings us the tragic and true-life story of billionaire self-styled wrestling guru, John DuPont, and his infamous training facility at Foxcatcher Farm in Delaware.
The story follows Olympic gold medallist siblings Mark and Dave Schultz in the wake of their success in the 1980s. Despite his accolades, Mark (Channing Tatum) seems held fast in a rut, grinding out a spartan existence in the shadow of his more affable brother.
A few years older and a touch more wholesome, Dave (Mark Ruffalo) is pleasantly settling into family life and focusing his wrestling experience on training Mark for competition.
When Mark is unexpectedly contacted by the affluent but intensely creepy DuPont (Steve Carrell), he sees the long-awaited chance to slip out of the benign but suffocating fraternal grasp and establish himself in his own right.
It is the beginning of a dangerous and entangled relationship between the three men that eventually and inevitably leads to disaster …
Under Miller’s watch, every actor on screen is at the top of their game – Foxcatcher is a film that stands tall as a showcase of world-class acting.
Steve Carrell will garnish most of the praise at the awards for his transformative and career-defining portrayal of the grotesque and unnerving DuPont – a character who is so farcical and detached that at times he verges on becoming an implausible caricature.
It is only by looking back at real interviews and newsreel footage of John DuPont that you can see the incredible mimicry of Carrell’s performance.
But, while Carrell is ostensibly the lead, the success of his role depends on the solid support he receives throughout the film, and Channing Tatum could arguably be in the running for lead nominations too, as he continues to go from strength to strength.
Ruffalo manages to expertly bring a sense of unassuming equilibrium between the extremes of the other two actors.
True to its message, Foxcatcher refuses to conform to the standard narrative – preferring to show us a slow decay, rather than a triumphant growth.
The end result is a challenging film; one that feels rare, memorable, and well executed.