Review by Gordon Justesen
Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave
Director: Bennett Miller
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 130 Minutes
Release Date: March 3, 2015
ďDo you have a problem with me?Ē
I was completely unfamiliar with the true life events depicted in Foxcatcher, and that was certainly a benefit. But even if I knew all the details, Iím sure I would have still been knocked out by the concluding moments in what is easily one of the most gut-wrenching true life tragedies ever depicted on film. There is an uneasy sense of doom that lingers throughout every minute of director Bennett Millerís mesmerizing masterpiece, right up to the sucker punch of a finale.
The film depicts the strange bond that develops between an eccentric man of wealth and the young athlete he took under his wing. In 1987, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), a gold medalist wrestler in the 84 Olympics, receives a pivotal phone call. He is asked to come train at the newly established Foxcatcher wrestling training facility, located on the Pennsylvania estate belonging to one John du Pont.
Once there, he is greeted by du Pont (Steve Carell), who tells Mark that he would very much like for him to train with the very best wrestlers and bring home another gold medal at the upcoming Olympics in Seoul. Mark says yes to the offer immediately.
Up until now, Mark has always trained with his older brother, David (Mark Ruffalo), whoís also a gold medalist and the more prominent of the two brothers. When Mark tells him of the offer heís been given, David is puzzled by it but lets his brother proceed as he wishes. Itís very clear that Mark sees this as an opportunity to no longer living in Davidís shadow.
The unnerving mood of the film is enlightened even more so by the very presence of du Pont himself, played brilliantly by a completely unrecognizable Carell, altering both voice and appearance to look like the real man heís portraying. Weíve all come to admire Carell as a major comic talent and though heís done a dramatic role here and there, nothing could have ever prepared me for what heís done here. Not since Robin Williams in One Hour Photo has there been a more serious, unsettling transformation of an actor weíre so used to seeing in another light.
Thereís something really off about the man right from the get go. In the midst of his extreme wealth, heís very anti social, has never had any real friends, canít seem to please his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), and has three specific obsessions: wrestling, bird watching and guns. He even spends money to acquire various military artillery to place on his estate.
So from du Pontís perspective, he sees Mark as someone he can possibly connect with in a father-son mentality. And that very thing is threatened when David re-enters the picture, when du Pont eventually asks him to come train at Foxcatcher. The brotherís bond becomes stronger than ever, resulting in the already fragile du Pontís unpredictable and obsessive jealous demeanor to increase over time.
And after all the dread thatís been building up for the entire film, the tragic climax just hits you like a ton of bricks. Itís horrific and heartbreaking all at once, and it had me completely frozen in my seat. As you can imagine, I looked up every bit of news footage I could find on the real life event when I came home from the theater.
Not only is this an acting triumph for Carell, but Channing Tatum and, especially, Mark Ruffalo excel tremendously. Dramatic work wise, this is by far Tatumís finest hour as he fits the role of the brawny, determined-to-win wrestler perfectly. As for Ruffalo, this is the actorís best work to date as he delivers a perfectly nuanced performance while also transforming himself physically for the part.
Foxcatcher is potent and purely unforgettable. Itís slow pacing may be a test for some, but itís completely worth it especially if you are a fan of these actors, particularly that of Steve Carell! This film stayed with me for days, and is without question one of the very best films of 2014!
This is an absolutely strong Blu-ray offering from Sony. Director Bennett Miller is going for sharp authenticity in his approach to the material, and that is captured terrifically well here. Colors and overall image detail are as strong as can be, even if they are captured in a purely simplified manner. It does help in the effect of the real life events unfolding.
The 5.1 DTS HD mix really delivers a strong impact, even if in a subtle way. The sense of dread is built up greatly thanks to the eerie music score the lingers during various scenes. Dialogue delivery is superbly strong and the numerous wrestling scenes garner some good playback with the ambient crowd noise.
Included on this Sony Blu-ray is a featurette titled ďThe Story of Foxcatcher", two Deleted Scenes and a Theatrical Trailer. I really wish there had been more included here regarding the real life events (I can only hope that a Criterion release presents itself in the future!)
Few films of recent memory have stayed with me the way Foxcatcher has. It is fully deserving of all the critical acclaim itís received. And if youíre unfamiliar with the true story as I was, the impact of the film will only be stronger!