By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The bizarre murder of Dave Schultz by John du Pont shook the world in 1996 and has now been made into a feature film by writers E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, and director Bennett Miller. This movie features some of the best performances of the year by actors Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. Miller’s approach to the material is mostly soft-spoken and minimalistic with slow and deliberate pace. The result is powerful and disturbing film which effectively builds tension and explodes with fury where necessary.
Carell stars as John Eleuthere du Pont, heir to the du Pont fortune, philanthropist, and wrestling sponsor. Passionate about the sport, du Pont decides to form a wrestling team to compete in the Olympics. Du Pont recruits the best of the best athletes for his “Foxcatcher” team including amateur wrestler and Olympic gold medal winner Mark Schultz. Du Pont and Schultz eventually become close friends, but the friendship goes sour when their relationship begins to affect Mark’s wrestling. Worried about Mark’s performance and the state of his team, du Pont hires Mark’s brother Dave Schultz, another Olympic champion, to help coach the team. The relationship among the three men takes a bizarre turn as Mark and John’s friendship further deteriorates and Mark drifts further away from his brother with whom he once had a close bond.
Miller’s slow and deliberate approach works well in building up awkward and uncomfortable tension giving his audience that uneasy, foreboding feeling that things are not all well with John du Pont and creating a dark and ominous atmosphere about the Foxcatcher home. This works though most of the film, but the journey does drag somewhat in parts, particularly around the middle act. The uncomfortable, uneasy feelings turned to me just being a bit antsy and uncomfortable with the slow pace. Things do pick somewhat in the final acts and lead to a powerful and shocking ending. It’s true that most of us know where the movie is headed, but Miller, his writers, and actors manage to suck the audience into this story that they manage to shock and awe them when the inevitable does occur.
The three leads all deserve nominations for their work here, particularly Carell and Tatum. With every new challenging role he attempts, Channing Tatum continues to impress me. This is the same actor I dismissed and laughed at when he starred in Step Up. He certainly has proven me wrong. He has the talent to not only do comedy roles well, but also dramatic work. As Mark Schultz, Tatum shows quite the range of emotions in what is his probably his most dramatic role. He has proven me wrong and I am so incredibly happy for this talented actor. Carell also has blown me away with his work in this movie. John du Pont is also his most dramatic role in a filmography full of comedy. Carell is utterly creepy and unnerving as an ill person who is a product of the eccentricities and spoils of vast wealth.
Miller and his writers do definitely make it a point to critique the life styles of the wealthy with their movie. The overall theme that prevails is that a wealth of money cannot achieve happiness and can often warp the true idea and definition of love. Money still prevails as an American ideal and I think it is important that filmmakers continue to tell stories like this one which is based on true events. Movies like Foxcatcher can show just how skewed the priorities of people can get.