Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Inspired by true events, Foxcatcher tells an unsettling tale of crime, adversity and the pressures of competitive sports training. Its narrative documents how two Olympic wrestling brothers became involved with a wealthy aficionado of the sport, ultimately leading to tragic outcomes.
The plot follows Mark Schultz as he is approached by millionaire John du Pont, who wishes him and his brother Dave to become part of his private wrestling squad. From there on, the story chronicles the highs and lows of the Schultz brothers’ relationship with du Pont and their wrestling with Team Foxcatcher.
This movie is essentially a meticulously crafted and detailed character study, particularly of both Mark Schultz and John du Pont. The drama unfolds very gradually, with a lot of time spent building and analysing the psyches of the lead characters.
The relative lack of a soundtrack benefits the character development, conveying and emphasizing the fragile mental state of the major players. The lethargic pace also helps in this regard, allowing for careful cross examinations of du Pont and the Schultzes. However, it can also result in the narrative feeling a little too languid and drawn out at times, occasionally threatening to induce monotony.
Thankfully though, the engaging performances of the lead actors keep it interesting, especially that of Steve Carell.
Carell delivers a compelling and standout performance, appearing almost unrecognisable as du Pont. Through moments of silent contemplation and delayed responses, he paints a very disconcerting individual from early on. The mannerisms and demeanour he brings to the part construct a character about which there is something consistently disturbing.
Channing Tatum does a fine job of conveying how the pressure to win can have adverse psychological effects on athletes, leaving them feeling alienated and broken. Tatum succeeds in portraying Mark Schultz as a sympathetic character; a victim of the adverse influence and perplexing mentality of du Pont.
Mark Ruffalo is just as unrecognisable as Carell in the role of Dave Schultz. While he doesn’t benefit from as much development or screen time as his leading co-stars, his turn as the elder Schultz is admirably immersive.
Overall, in terms of pace, this movie can be something of a chore. Having said that, the slow speed at which the plot unfolds is necessary for this to be the articulate character study that it is. The great strength here is not the action nor the depiction of sporting events, it is the tremendous acting talent on display. To appreciate this alone, Foxcatcher is worth investigating.
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