Movies based on true stories often provide for some of the more riveting and though-provoking cinematic experiences. The drama and grittiness is palpable and it is the one of most literal examples of “art imitating life”. The searing drama Foxcatcher is a dark and psychological exploration of three men who each have their own individual problems and eventually clash with a truly unfortunate outcome. The film stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and an intense and almost barely recognizable Steve Carell. It is a movie that will suck you in and basically leave you breathless. Released just in time for award season, this is one drama/thriller that is not to be missed.
Foxcatcher recounts the disturbing and shocking true story of eccentric millionaire and wrestling enthusiast Jon Eleuthere du Pont (Carell) and his random desire to take Olympic gold medal wrestling champions and brothers Mark (Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) under his wing. The film takes place on du Pont’s sprawling farm property named Foxcatcher, where he develops a creepy relationship with Mark and a strong dislike for Dave. In 1996, du Pont shot and killed Dave due to his being an apparent paranoid-schizophrenic. Foxcatcher follows the events leading up to this tragic occurrence and it is tense, to say the least.
The murder of Shultz is one of the most bizarre crimes in American history. du Pont was a wealthy psychopath who took the life of someone for reasons that were petty and completely surprising. Carell has captured this man’s essence and the actor has completely transformed himself for the role. With heavy makeup including a bigger nose and speaking in a slow, quiet voice, Carell has fully dedicated himself to his performance. An Oscar nomination (if not a win) is certainly in the actor’s future and most of his career up until Foxcatcher has been dedicated to comedy. He did squeeze two dramedies out over the years (Little Miss Sunshine, Dan in Real Life) but Foxcatcher is his first flat out drama and his performance is among the strongest of the year.
The rest of the cast is also pretty decent with Tatum playing Mark as an emotionally closed off jock, a silent musclebound athlete with a river of mixed emotions flowing through him. It’s basically Tatum playing Tatum and admirers of the hunky actor will appreciate his subdued performance. The always reliable Ruffalo is great as the doomed brother to Mark. The scenes he has at wrestling practice with Mark, sparring and training, are actually really heartfelt and deeply genuine.
Director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) has dug deep into the obscure history of American crime with Foxcatcher and it is a film that sheds light on a twisted story that is not only true but extremely unnerving. Each shot of the foggy Foxcatcher property, as well shots of du Pont himself, sitting in silence all stir up strong emotions and tension. Foxcatcher is a triumph on almost every level, from Carell’s haunting performance to the reiteration of a tragic true story. The film may take a few viewings to sink in and get fully absorbed but once it does, you’ll be glad it did.