Friday, December 19, 2014

Foxcatcher: Movie Review


A cold atmosphere for a heartless act.
Murder is a dark and cold act, so the story that leads up to it might as well be as dark and cold as you can make it. Such seems to be the thought that goes into the crafting of Foxcatcher. It is meticulously crafted, but also as austere and void of warmth that most films would dare to be. This one goes further. It presents the true story of ornithologist, philatelist and philanthropist John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) who persuades wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and brother David (Mark Ruffalo) to join his team. 2014

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Screenplay by: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman

Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo

Team Foxcatcher is stationed on the du Pont's sprawling Pennsylvania estate, complete with stables for horse racing and grounds for the old English sport of fox hunting. And in 1987, people hunting. Multi-millionaire du Pont built a state of the art wrestling training centre as an avid supporter of amateur sports in the US. He recruited Mark Schultz as his star pupil, to help raise awareness of his team and training centre and because he was in need of being a mentor even if he was not mentally fit to be a mentor.

Left to right: Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz and Mark Ruffalo as
Dave Schultz. Photo by Scott Garfield, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Mark Schultz was realizing the harsh realities that winning a gold medal in wrestling does not translate to real life. USA Wrestling did not provide any support and Mark was living a lonely, almost destitute life. And then comes benefactor John E. du Pont who has the money to pay him to train and offers him a guest house on his estate. While it's pretty clear to everyone, this is when Mark confirms the creepiness that inhabits du Pont's entire way of being. The real Mark Schultz has also confirmed that Carell's entirely unnerving mannerisms were accurate.

When Mark relays this too-good-to-be-true offer to older, more stable, and family-man brother Dave, Dave asks what du Pont gets out of this. Mark's answer, true to the words of John himself, were one-word replies as if they answered everything. America. Winning. Hope. Believe. Hey, if it worked for Obama, why shouldn't everybody speak in such meaningless statements?

There certainly are interesting dynamics set up between the three main characters, and like real life, sometimes their true motivations are unclear. And that's part of the problems with “Foxcatcher,” it doesn't want to tell you anything. It is a quiet film, cold, distancing and mostly empty in emotion. You watch everything unfold with minimal dialogue, minimal score and music, and minimal inference.

Steve Carell as John du Pont. Photo by Scott Garfield,
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
There is an interesting but odd structure to the film. Each scene follows the previous in tone and context, but you're still unsure of what could come, except for something unnerving. The uncomfortable atmosphere that du Pont establishes on Foxcatcher Farm translates to the screen and the audience, and you're left hoping for something to happen, and sooner rather than later. However, du Pont's actions were never clearly identified by those who knew him in advance, so a film which is trying to capture the feeling of that man probably shouldn't have clearly identified actions.

Foxcatcher the film condenses many of the real-life actions which is a must otherwise it would have moved even slower, and in doing so a bulk of the action moves from the 90s to the 80s. But in a movie like this, it's not the facts or the plot that pushes forward, it's an unending feeling of coldness - an atmosphere of desperation, fear and anguish.

Similar Titles:

Moneyball (2011) - More than a game of numbers.

Whiplash (2014) - Each drum beat raises the intensity and the stakes of achieving greatness.

Gone Girl (2014) - Implores you to not take appearances at face value as the characters cut a dark tale of marriage.

Nightcrawler (2014) - Immorality drives this tale of crime journalism to the end.