Moneyball director Bennett Miller’s award season front-runner, Foxcatcher, is based on the tragic real-life story of multi-millionaire John du Punt (Steve Carell) and his relationship with the Olympic champion wrestlers, Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).
Dark and extremely gripping, Miller has produced a film which explores the souls of three interesting, yet very different, characters. Carell’s du Punt – a rich, lonely guy with a love for wrestling – was a man always close to the edge. With money to burn and no one to stop him, he effectively bought himself the title of ‘head coach’ to some of the best athletes in the sport in an attempt to feed his own ego.
Carell, most commonly known for his comedic roles, shines as he portrays du Punt’s slow deterioration into the paranoid, self-absorbed mess he became, in spectacularly creepy fashion. Uncomfortable to watch, yet strangely engrossing, his performance – prosthetic nose and all – is not just a career best display, but a worthy Oscar contender.
Mark and Dave Schultz; brothers, Olympic champions, and polar opposites. Channing Tatum, pulling his best scowl, gets his serious face on. Proving he can do ‘dark’, Tatum delves deep into younger brother Mark’s inner battle to escape from the shadow of his older, legendary sibling. Big bro Dave Schultz is a family-man with a heart of gold. Ruffalo’s coolness brings some relief to otherwise highly intense proceedings, as he looks to keep a loving eye on his younger brother one bear hug at a time.
As the camera sweeps across the beautiful lawns of the de Punt estate, you know it is all going to end in tears. It all feels very secluded, a feeling which captures the mindset of not only du Punt, but also the younger Schultz, as they battle their respective demons. What Miller is able to capture within a fascinating, yet deadly, sports-based story, is the relationship between the main players. This is not just a story about a paranoid loner losing his grip on reality, but about two brothers – very different, yet, despite Mark’s reservations, inextricably bound together. The latter is superbly played out, and even more intriguing to watch than de Punt’s downfall, as Tatum – without saying much – shows Mark, despite his own success, really struggled to shake off his older brother’s legendary status which he felt hovered constantly above his own head.
Foxcatcher is a beautifully shot, well-acted piece of film that was given a large dosage of paranoia. Although it loses its way towards the end – as pacing issues become apparent and we lose the film’s initial clear focus – this is still Miller’s best work. It is the strongest film of 2015 so far, and will take some beating.