Directed by Bennett Miller
Starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller and Vanessa Redgrave
The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.
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★★★★½ review by Eli Hayes on Letterboxd
The definition of a film that requires a second viewing; my second viewing, yesterday's viewing, shot this into my top ten favorite films of the year. Before, it wasn't even quite in my top fifteen. What an unbelievable display of mastery with regards to the crafts of writing, directing, acting, cinematography and soundtrack/score. Everything about this film, on a technical level (and more than a technical level), is astonishing.
I picked up on so many more details during my second viewing, subtleties such as the homoerotic undertones which explain without the slightest bit of vagueness why DuPont's elderly, homophobic mother considers wrestling to be a "low" sport, and some possible (or rather, probable) internal struggles that DuPont himself may have been experiencing on a level of sexual orientation.
But that's only one of the many themes that Foxcatcher touches on: masculinity, control, dominance, authority, possession, pride, jealousy, egotism, wealth, money, being a "winner," and in a strange way, family/community - whether one replaces the family one doesn't have with faux representations of a family (e.g. Mark Schultz's situation), or whether one delusionally sees oneself as part of a community on the surface, when underneath, one is too far off the deep end to be a part of anything remotely resembling reality (e.g. DuPont).
Ruffalo, Tatum, Carell = three of the best performances of '14.
Foxcatcher = one of the best films of '14.
See this film ASAP.
★★★★ review by Evan on Letterboxd
Foxcatcher is a bit slow, but that doesn't stop it from being a very good film. The performances keep you engaged during the entire run-time. As most of already said, Steve Carell is unrecognizable. He is great as Mr. du Pont. Also Channing Tatum haters, just stop it.
★★★★½ review by Luke Kane on Letterboxd
Have you ever been pinned down by someone and, despite all your resistance, find that you can't free yourself? That no matter how much you strain against your opponent, you're trapped and at the mercy of another? That awful feeling is what Foxcatcher is about. It's what the characters do to each other - literally and figuratively - and it's also what director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) does to his audience.
Based on the true story of an Olympic gold-medalist wrestler and his bizarre association with deranged multimillionaire John du Pont, Foxcatcher is a frightening examination of the events that foreshadowed a cold-blooded murder.
Channing Tatum is a naive wrestler with a natural ability but no self-esteem, who lives in the shadow of his famous brother (Mark Ruffalo) whom he loves, hates, resents and admires in equal amounts. John du Pont (Steve Carrell) is a creepy eccentric who uses his excessive wealth to exert control over Tatum's life and career. The film explores the unhealthy power-play that developed between these three men which ultimately led to disaster.
Tatum and Ruffalo are arrestingly good. In the opening scene we see these two brothers training, and their violent, tactile ballet is like a running commentary on their entire relationship. The familial head banging, the push and pull, the swoops and glides, the momentary exertions of strength, the lightness and intensity are deftly translatable and, like any close relationship, move beyond language. Tatum is skilled but lacks insight - his talent is a mystery to him that he fails to understand or examine. Ruffalo, on the other hand, knows the theory and craft of the sport and possesses the necessary confidence of a champion.
Steve Carrell is unrecognisable as du Pont. His prosthetic nose and fragmented manner of speaking immediately peg him as a born loser. He was the strange, sheltered kid at school interested in bird-watching, and the stigma of those unseen early years are perceptible. He's the kind of man who fails to open his mouth without leaving a palpable chill in the air. His inordinate wealth can't buy him a shred of the wit, skill or charisma of Ruffalo. In a horrifying moment, Carrell asks him, 'Do you have a problem with me?' What he's really asking is, 'Why does it come so easily to you? Why is it you have what it takes to be great - to be admired and respected - and I don't?'
Unsettling and tense, Foxcatcher is also authentically messy and harrowing. When the blood finally runs, we don't get the feeling we were being steered to this point via a series of contrivances like the wildly-overhyped Nightcrawler. In that film Gyllenhaal tampers with a fellow nightcrawler's breaks and films the carnage in a scene that I suppose substitutes for irony if you're an adolescent. The psychological complexities of Foxcatcher hit us in a darker and more uncertain place. Once the blood has spilled, we're allowed to wonder who is really to blame, and in what measure the fault really lies.
Foxcatcher breathes and pulsates with the ambiguity and ugliness of human relationships. Bennett recognises that life is emotional, often frightening, but always untidy and subject to interpretation. It's the kind of movie we wrestle with in the dark long after it's finished.
★★★★ review by Tiago Costa on Letterboxd
A tough recommendation. Outside of the acting, there is little I can say about it. Steve Carell is nearly unrecognizable in a role that might not get the proper recognition because it borders so closely on parody. Yet he is so effectively creepy, that you can't help but cringe everytime he is on screen. Channing Tatum demonstrates some acting chops but lives in the shadow of his on-screen big brother played by Mark Ruffalo. Everyone in the cast was fantastic but Ruffalo really shines in a film where the actors don't save their best for the close-ups. The dialogue is minimal with stretches of uncomfortable silence that effect the pacing. The tension builds and builds to a climax that should be obvious even if you weren't familiar with the story. The buildup and the pacing make the film drag on long after the initial giggles at Carell's nose turn into recoils.
Like Whiplash, I’ve been aware of this film for a long time as it had a very early run at film festivals early last year. I heard Steve Carell was a revelation, that the film was a contender for Best Picture, and that Bennett Miller crafted a tight thriller aimed to get under your skin. Well, some of those things ended up being true, some didn’t. Let’s get into this.
Steve Carell – This was really the first thing I heard about the film. Steve Carell, Michael Scott himself, can act with the big guys. Considering he was recognized by the Academy, I’d say that he has found his way into talk of great working actors today. I didn’t think however that his performance was as monumental as most are claiming. I think that the fact that it was Steve Carell behind that enormous shnoz added to the talk of greatness. The guy who was speaking gibberish on Bruce Almighty and throwing tridents at people in Anchorman was now taking on a serious acting role in trying to portray John duPont. I think he did as fine a job as anybody could have, I just think the actual part was a bit underwhelming. duPont doesn’t say much. This role was all in the eyes for Carell and by all means did he nail it. My favorite parts of the film were when Carell, as duPont, is confronted with a problem, and his gaze goes cold, and his mind seems to be racing, but there is zero emotion on his face. That’s all Carell. He was able to give off such a creepy and subtle psychosis that even though I didn’t know the outcome of the story, I knew something bad was brewing. David Oyelewo should have been in the Best Actor category, but I had no problem with Carell being there.
The screenplay – This is where the film had its flaws. I love quiet films. This film is VERY quiet. There is a very subtle score consisting of light piano and strings but most of the film is dialogue and while that is happening, there is silence. There were times where this kind of slowness was totally important in the building of these characters. Other times it meandered. There were scenes involving duPont and his obsession with being in control that were important theme wise but seemed to drag on film wise. The two hour and fifteen minute run time felt like three hours mostly due to this meandering. The end of the film was also very abrupt and didn’t really give us reactionary points of view from all parties. Shocking? Oh, hell yeah. The pivotal scene that begins the end of the film is one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen this year, but after that the film just kind of fades away. I needed more resolve. There was also a lot of holes in the film where Shultz and duPont start to get closer to each other. There’s a scene on a helicopter before a ceremony that leads right into bad haircuts and total character change. Nothing explained it other than what happened on the helicopter. Just felt forced.
Other than that, I felt that the comparison and development of duPont and Mark Shultz was fascinating to watch. Both these characters had father/mother issues, felt like they were in the shadows of somebody else, and loved America a whole lot. It’s a great character study.
Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum – Both of them, teamed with Carell of course, kicked major ass in this film. I said as the film was starting that I wanted to see if Tatum could actually act or if he was just a one trick pony with his sexy dancing and his buddy cop comedies. The dude can act. I’m now in the group of people that sees him as an actor rather than a celebrity who tries to act. For the record, I loved him in 21 Jump Street. Like Carell with duPont, Channing portrayed Mark Shultz as a silent time bomb, ready to explode at a given point. I was impressed. Ruffalo has been a favorite actor of mine for a while and even I didn’t understand the praise he got for this film until about three quarters of the way in. Then I got it. The last quarter of this film, Ruffalo becomes one of the more sympathetic characters I’ve seen in film in a while. He portrays the character and personality of Dave Shultz so well that all sorts of emotions were flying by the films end. He earned his praise.
The liked the film. I’m glad I didn’t see it in theaters because I may have fallen asleep but the film worked in most ways in telling the chilling tale of what happens when you mix immense power and money with mental illness. The three actors knocked it out of the park and the film had great tone and color. It dragged in bits, but overall it’s a film that I can see getting better with age. The character study alone of duPont and Mark Schultz was worth the watch.
★★★★★ review by SilentDawn on Letterboxd
Incredibly startling in its enormity and beautifully distant in its vision; Foxcatcher is an american classic that combines impeccable performances, haunting cinematography, and an effortlessly tragic story in order to craft a film of mammoth and staggering flourishes. Bennett MIller's masterpiece revels in the unspoken, mulling through silence and emptiness in a world where everything is left unsaid. The film resembles the quiet pattering of a slight rain-storm, slowly adding more and more rain until the thunder strikes, leaving the audience shaken in a way that very few films accomplish.
The story, which at first glance seems weak in its approach, is a goldmine in terms of escalating themes, feelings, motifs, and character arcs. While the deliberate pace isn't for everyone, It's absolutely necessary for a film of such colossal ambitions and ideas. The build-up to the finale of Foxcatcher is unparalleled in its determination and its focus. Every detail, every look, every shot, every scene; It adds up to something of a marvel in terms of both effective storytelling and emotional escalation.
All three performances by Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo are remarkable in every possible way. It's a trio of performances that are so rare in contemporary cinema, and that's a truly sad thing. Each performance is so incredible that there really isn't a standout in the film, and as a result, the culminating emotional gravitas is as potent as anything on film in the last few years. Channing Tatum, just wow. Mark Ruffalo, just wow. And Steve Carell. Just wow. I really can't oversell it, these guys dig into their characters in such a way that it elevates the film to historic heights.
Greig Fraser's cinematography is some of the best of 2014, viewing the lonely and misty landscapes of Pennsylvania with a cold and aloof eye. It's a fascinating contrast between the freezing look and the unexpected poignancy, and it makes for some supreme images. Along with Rob Simonsen's HAUNTING score, the visual/aural combination is wondrous. It's indescribable really.
Foxcatcher, while undoubtedly an American masterpiece and one of the great films about America, isn't going to be viewed very often by me. It's incredible, emotional, tragic, mesmerizing, and layered; but It'll never be a film that I can throw on just about anytime. The experience is second to none, and as the film ends, the images are left to swirl around in your head and linger like the thick fog floating around the Foxcatcher estate. Viewing it too often probably goes against a powerful attribute of the film as a whole; the enduring feeling that is meant to be pondered and examined even after the details float away.
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