What do Michael Scott, the Incredible Hulk and Jenko from 21 Jump Street have in common? They all give some of the best dramatic performances of 2014 in “Foxcatcher”.
Directed by Bennett Miller, who also helmed “Capote” and “Moneyball”, “Foxcatcher” is a thriller based on the true story of millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) who become the sponsor of USA wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo).
A huge fan of Steve Carell and excited to see what he could do in a dramatic role, I personally have been looking forward to this film for a long time. Originally due out in December 2013, it was delayed a full year to complete editing, so I have been counting down the days until its release since Oscar Season kicked off two months ago. And much to my pleasure, “Foxcatcher” does not disappoint.
What drives the film are the performances; Tatum, Carell and Ruffalo all shine in their own way. Tatum, coming off the comedy hit “22 Jump Street”, and Carell, from “Anchorman” and “The Office” fame, aren’t exactly who you think of when you hear “Oscar-worthy performance”, but both give just that.
Playing a meathead athlete may not seem too much of a stretch for Tatum considering his physique and persona, but Tatum’s Mark Schultz requires so much more. Stuck in his brother’s shadow despite himself winning Olympic gold, Mark takes up du Pont’s offer to come and train at his estate, seeing it as a chance to separate himself from his brother. While attempting this separation, Mark’s mental state becomes more strained, and Tatum is near perfect showing the emotional toll, as well as physical repercussions, of this.
Carell is almost unrecognizable as John du Pont, a man with an almost homoerotic obsession with the sport of wrestling, a desperate desire to impress his mother, and, as he says, a want to “see America soar again”. Comedians often have dark sides, it’s what made Michael Keaton perfect as Batman and why Robin Williams could flip a switch and give a serious performance. Carell has several scenes where he gives a chuckle-inducing line, like wanting to be called “Golden Eagle”, but nearly every time du Pont walks into a room, especially in the final 30 minutes, you feel uneasy and on edge, because you just have a feeling that this guy could just snap.
Ruffalo has his moments to stand out as well, especially in the second half of the film when he comforts a quickly deteriorating Mark.
What may turn some people off from “Foxcatcher” is the fact that it is a candle burning film, meaning it is a lot of build-up. At times the film may feel like it has no true aim, or even seem uneventful, but it is all building to a fantastically executed climax by Miller. The acting, the score and the direction all come to a perfect head, resulting in a final scene that is still etched in my brain and gets better as more time passes.
“Foxcatcher” is a fantastically acted, wonderfully directed thriller that takes a while to build but is well worth the wait. Tatum, Carell and Ruffalo all have scenes in which they are brilliant, and whether you know how this story ends or not, the final half hour of this film will have you leaning forward in your seat and your heartbeat slowly increasing.
Critics Rating: 8/10