The sports drama Foxcatcher is the story of Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz(Played by Channing Tatum) and based on his account of the events that transpired when the wealthy John du Pont (Steve Carell) approached him for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. They develop a strong bond when Du Pont personally finances a world-class wrestling team in order to contribute to his ideas of what America is about and to gain the approval of his mother (Vanessa Redgrave). Mark moves to the du Pont estate to distance himself from his domineering brother and partner Dave (Mark Ruffalo) as he sees John as a mentor and friend. Together the two begin to train and assemble the team Foxcatcher while living a life of excess and doing a lot of coke. Carell plays du Pont with unsettling intensity and Tatum embodies the everyman athlete who lives for the sport. There is a lot of awkward touching between the two that hints at du Pont’s strange intentions with Mark. Carell slithers as the eccentric millionaire who tries to fulfill the most important part of his star athlete’s life.
As Mark spirals into addiction, which his coach started, du Pont enlists his brother to come back and train him proper. The Seoul Olympics loom closer and despite not wanting to take part in another set of games, Dave is bought off by John. Taken as betrayal and revenge for not giving into whatever du Pont wanted out of him, being his prize horse or giving John complete control of his life, Mark begins to pull away. When Dave steps in to train, the brothers butt heads and du Pont begins to get fixated on Dave who has the motivation that Mark lost. To John, Dave represents what he wanted to build. Ruffalo delivers an incredible performance as Mark, his execution of the older brother’s confidence perfectly foils Tatum’s defeated younger brother. The way that the combination of the withdrawals, the rejection of both men in his life and his abilities not being good enough is played by Tatum completely speaks to how much the actor’s craft has built over the years. This is Tatum as we have never seen him.
Following the legacy of actors known for comedies who can turn to other genres, Carell relishes in the psychological games that du Pont plays with the brothers. As the film goes on, his cruelty unravels masterfully right to the tragic conclusion. The only thing the film really suffered in was some of the pacing. There were lulls in scenes and dry moments but even those helped to build the discomfort of what was happening. The film’s tone established the subversive nature of the world du Pont lived in and the control he believed he had of it.
Overall, the film had some strong performances from it’s leads despite sections that dragged on and away from the story. That really took away from the movie as whatever those pieces alluded to about du Pont were lost. However another strength were the wrestling scenes, which were choreographed realistically and felt like they were unfolding in the real world of sports. What stood out the most was the dynamic between Tatum, Ruffalo and Carell that drove the film’s core to it’s shocking conclusion.
Foxcatcher opens today!