Foxcatcher; A hunt for the Gold.

Walking into the theater, I hadn’t known what to expect of this film other than that it was about two brothers and wrestling. From the trailers and brief glimpses of […]

Walking into the theater, I hadn’t known what to expect of this film other than that it was about two brothers and wrestling. From the trailers and brief glimpses of hype I perused before seeing the film, I had come to expect a movie about triumph, about two brothers pushing themselves harder and winning gold for their nation. The haunting tale of depression, failing families, and utter mental lapse was not what I expected to find.

Feeling jaded at the way his country has spurned him, at the shadow hanging over him Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) falls easy prey to the wise words from John E Du Pont (portrayed by Steve Carell) . He’s quick to find a kindred soul in Du Pont over the fact that he echoes the same thoughts. Their nation is in trouble and they need to save it, a very brave statement from an Olympic wrestler and one of the wealthiest men in America.  The hunt is on but instead of hunting for the fox, Du Pont is setting the hounds for the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics.

This is no action movie, nor would I classify it as truly a sports movie. This is an actor’s film, created to watch the performances rather than for the story that drags at brief moments. Yet even when this film drags, it eerily keeps you hooked into keeping your gaze on the screen.

Tatum is hitting a pinnacle of his career, moving past the action based films such as White House Down (2013) and 22 Jump Street (2014).  His performance as Mark Schultz is mesmerizing. I found that I couldn’t take my gaze off him at many points of the film (not just for his good looks mind you). We see as Mark cuts ties with his only brother, Dave (Ruffalo) and is dragged further into this disconnected and disjointed world that he’s living in. Tatum is able to successfully project onto the screen the image of depression clawing it’s way to the surface and the cracks in Mark’s armor as the pressure grows stronger. By the time we see the mental snap from Mark, when he’s stretched too far and has hit his breaking point enough to lash out and destroy property that isn’t his, we’ve walked step by step with him. We witness the way that everyone attributes the success in the 1984 Olympics to Dave and not to him. His entire career is a struggle, even after Du Pont seeks him out directly and invites him there is the thought of Dave hanging over him. Tatum has internalized this intensely that every reaction given is believable.

Ruffalo has a heavy presence in the film, a solid performance from him even if this isn’t quite the pinnacle of his career, it fits right into his niche. His ability to sink into the mindset of having Tatum as his younger brother translates onto the big screen, although I think the five to six months of intensive training they had leading up to filming was an enormous stepping stone.

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However, even with these two talented actors on the silver screen neither are the star of this show. No, the spotlight is shone on Steve Carell as he leaves his niche of  comedic roles to take on the twisted and mentally failing John E Du Pont. When I walked into the film, I highly expected that he would mostly be in for the comedic role, to give some relief to this ‘inspiring sports drama’ that I assumed would encompass the film. I could never have been more wrong. Carell most definitely deserves a nod from the Academy as well as many other boards for this performance. From the first time we see Du Pont on screen there is a slight air of unease, a question of what’s in it for him. As the film progresses you see the shattering reality of his failing family life and the drive to just get his mother’s approval in the end.  His obsession with the sport of wrestling could be argued to be stemmed from his mother’s disdain for the sport, a want to show her that it isn’t ‘low’ of him to be participating in it. We are with him as his mental state falters further as his mother grows more disdainful of the sport. We see each new crack on his exterior and wonder when. When is he finally going to crack? I find that they trick you, make you briefly believe that maybe he won’t crack. That way when he finally does, when he finally seeks revenge for his life that is absent of anything of true value, it still manages to come as a surprise.

Bennett Miller has successfully revived the inspiring story of two brothers competing for their nation in the 88’ Olympics that ends in a tragedy. He’s carved out a niche of film for himself, directing stories of wanting to win (Capote and Moneyball). Adding this as his fifth directing credit, and only his third feature film credit, Miller has continued his success in the art of creating films and will surely receive more nods for his work as award season comes into full swing.

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I commend Miller on the ability to take a film spanning over the years of ’87 and ’88 and making it feel incredibly modern but without removing the feel of the time. It’s a story that you can still connect to, the feel of it as if this could happen in any decade not just the one it’s set in. Perhaps it’s the current trends of Tatum and Ruffalo being on the screen quite often or perhaps it’s because every two years each nation still rallies together in unity to compete and win against the rest of the globe.

However even with the strong performances and the coherent story telling of this film it pales to my expectations from the hype. The ending is abrupt, leaving you without any true closure regarding Dave’s fate. As well as we never truly got to know Dave as a person. The story focused so heavily on Mark that we couldn’t connect to Dave or feel the emotional drive for him at the end of the film. It happened. That’s all that it feels like, his end falls flat and it leaves a disappointing taste in my mouth. Although Tatum and Ruffalo are a strong relationship in the film, extremely believable as brothers and family, when they have the few fallouts you don’t sympathize or empathize with them.

The film deserves the hype it’s received, the performances are completely on point and it is intriguing to watch however for me it’s a onetime watch. There isn’t enough pull to make me want to watch it a second time. Sadly for a film with such brilliant performances I think that for most people it will fall into the category of, I won’t go out of my way to watch the film but if it’s on I won’t necessarily change the channel.

Nonetheless, I do encourage others to view the film and enjoy what’s presented. I just recommend not spending the extra money on your tickets. See it on a matinee or rent it when t’s out on DVD because the performances are definitely worth watching even if it’s not fully for the story.