“Audacious, artistic and utterly engaging from beginning to end.”
Bennett Miller‘s third feature film as director sees him carry forward his fascination with real-life self ideal and the dedicated pursuit of the American dream within history. Whereas his last film Moneyball dived into the world of baseball, here he muscles up into the realms of Olympic wrestling as this true life drama not only showcases the underlying dedication demanded in sport but also the overwhelming lengths to achieve greatness in a chosen field. Miller has a great eye for true stories you couldn’t believe hadn’t been told before, and with Foxcatcher he’s produced an even more invigorating tale.
America 1987, Olympic gold medalist and wrestling talent Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) is out on his luck in life, seeing no future and resorting to living in solitude. But once millionaire and proclaimed ornithologist John Du Pont (played by Steve Carell) takes Schultz under his wing and guides him to one day become a champion again, his personal motivation for this venture slowly dawns on his young protegé and on older Schultz brother David (played by Mark Ruffalo).
With a story of this nature and title, there’s no getting away from underlying tension that runs throughout the film between those three central characters. Even until the final frame, the film simmers as egos and personalities clash among this bubbling cauldron of testosterone and take downs, to the point you have the enjoyment of having no idea with this story is going. But even deeper than that this story says more about the consequences of projecting a role model approach on people. Throughout the film, the message of heroes and father figures plays a big part in the influence of characters motivations and says more about what happens when you over obsess about a larger than life figure.
Channing Tatum gives his best dramatic performance as a brute force of strength and ability in the world of wrestling, but also controlling his character really well to the point of nuance. Like a lost soul in the 80’s landscape, he’s easily dragged into the whirlwind lifestyle of fortune but manages to remember his roots when they really matter. Mark Ruffalo plays the older Schultz brother with a far more cooler head on his shoulders, realising his wrestling days are behind him and putting his family as his number on focus in life, all the while not loosing track of his brother’s well-being. But the stand is that of Steve Carell who drastic physical changes are brilliant and goes against any character we’ve seen him play before. He plays the stern, slightly introverted and most powerful of the three leads but has the clearest goals in life and will stop at nothing to see success attached to his name.
It’s a film that will last long in the memory, with its descent into madness and ideals on the treatment of people playing very strong to its audience. It’s audacious, artistic and utterly engaging from beginning to end, without the focal point of wrestling even getting in the way of the real drama unfolding before our eyes. Carell steals the show with his uncanny performance, but Miller’s direction and story telling is masterfully orchestrated.