The word intense doesn't even begin to describe Bennett Miller's latest project: Foxcatcher. This is a grueling film, yet it is also a hugely commendable and astonishing piece of drama too.
Miller has yet again, like with his previous projects Capote and Moneyball, shown that sometimes fact can outdo fiction and that basing films on utterly rambunctious true stories can prove a success. Like the latter though, Foxcatcher does so through the field of sport - just not as glamorously. The man is probably the best out there for these types of projects - always hitting a home run so to speak.
However, this time we're ditching the jovial class of baseball for the dirtier, rougher world of wrestling. Channing Tatum is former Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz - a monopolising loner, who's only motive and interest in life is wrestling; your typical "God bless America", Steve Rogers-esque patriot. On the other end of things, there's Mark Ruffalo as his amiable, easy-going brother Dave. We quickly learn of the poignant relationship between the two, Dave being the father-like figure to his little sibling - almost like a core part of Mark himself.
Having returned, back to his flat, after a training session with his brother, Mark receives a phone call from someone on behalf of billionaire John du Point - who invites Mark to meet and discuss the wrestler's future plans. Arriving in Pennsylvania, Mark is greeted by a towering mansion and Steve Carrell's du Pont; complete with grey hair, a prosthetic nose and a haunting eeriness that will rattle your bones. He offers Mark the chance to live and train on his Foxcatcher estate, whilst helping to form a team for the Seoul 1988 Olympics - only three years away - and he is quick to accept. However, on the other end of things, his brother Dave is reluctant to agree.
Seeing this as a chance to gain the respect and approval of the world, his peers and, most importantly, his mother, du Pont's endeavours in coaching Mark become a little selfish - especially when he still relies heavily on Dave. Trying to steer him clear of his brother, du Pont begins to corrupt Schultz's mind with drugs, money and power - luring him into a dangerously unstable and unhealthy state, even further away from society. With Mark now a mess, du Pont turns his attention towards Dave but the tension is cranked up and things begin to, quickly, spiral out of control for the trio.
The acting in this is out of control. Both Tatum and Ruffalo are outstanding in their respective roles as the Schultz brothers: Mark and Dave. We see them only very occasionally actually speaking to each other, their communication through just a series of grunts and quiet wrestling, yet they understand each other; WE understand them. The two actors have created such an intricate and beautiful onscreen brotherly bond that is just so convincing, their performances supporting and strengthening one another. This is their film.
We then have Carrell as the creepy, disturbing John du Pont and, wow, is this guy fabulous? Doubts had been raised as to whether the comedian could pull of serious role with such gravitas and weight - even I was skeptical at first. Well, he certainly proved us all wrong. Steve is a revelation. This man is unrecognisable. It's hard to think that the same actor voiced Gru in the Despicable Me films. He so perfectly captures the dark tone and eeriness of du Pont, showing us how devastating the effects of money and power can be. He completely inhibits the skin of John, pitching everything about him so perfectly, making for one of the most riveting (but disturbing) performances on the big-screen.
All three give the best performances of their careers and the chemistry between the them is captured so magnificently, making for some really tense moments. However, as I said, this films belongs to Tatum and Ruffalo. As excellent as Carrell is, this is all about the Schultz brothers. However, it's the latter that's the breakout star here, really stealing the show from the trio. Mark is a tremendous actor, as are Channing and Steve, but he just knocks it out of the park as Dave and my attention was always drawn to him.
What a brilliantly directed film too. Everything, from the morbid tone to the sleek shots to capturing the palpable chemistry between our group, is done so perfectly and memorably. This is great filmmaking, just as much as it is acting. This is exhaustingly slow and so disturbing and creepy - almost putting you off watching it - but it's so compelling and so poignant that you're hooked and, my god, the finale pays off. Whether you're familiar with the source material or not, this is an ending that is so unexpected and so shocking that it will leave you reeling, teeth grinding and unsure what to do next.
Utterly compelling and unnervingly disturbing, Foxcatcher is simply a triumph and Bennet Miller's best drama yet - with unsettlingly astonishing performances from Tatum, Carrell and Ruffalo.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.