Re-telling a true story, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher follows Mark (Tatum), a washed-up Olympic wrestler in the mid-1980s, as he succumbs to the patriotism of heir extraordinaire John du Pont (Carell) who’s creating a superlative “Foxcatcher” wrestling team – although it’s Mark’s more charismatic brother and fellow Olympian Dave (Ruffalo) that Du Pont covets. He lures them both to his state of-the-art wrestling facilities on the Foxcatcher estate, and tri-partite tensions take their course.
Carell and Ruffalo have made the awards lists, but it was Miller who (already) bagged best director at Cannes for his canny combination of their respective talents – plus that of Tatum, whose portrayal of an obstinately jutting-jawed man of abused ambition carries just as much conviction as Ruffalo’s necessarily more nuanced older brother. Carell in particular shines as he merges restraint with fervour to invigorate the manipulative megalomania of a weak man in search of posterity at all costs. Revisiting the corporeality of male sporting environments (Moneyball) with a barely-present camera that’s only rarely underpinned and never undermined by a reticent score, Miller shows himself again as a master of cinematic understatement. There is some folly in all forms of sporting excess. It takes an unusual director to show this as a process just as home, if not more so, in mute embraces and laboured arm-locks than more ostentatious moves.
Foxcatcher | Directed by Bennett Miller (USA 2014) with Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo. Starts February 5
Originally published in issue #135, February 2015