Director Bennett Miller is once again tackling a true story in his third feature film. His past projects ‘Moneyball’ and ‘Capote’ have showcased Miller’s ability to get intimate, find truth in those unassuming moments and not shy away from the awkward and uncomfortable. From the onset of his latest accolade-grabber ‘Foxcatcher’, you’re exposed to an unsettled and uneasy feeling, with nothing quite as it should be - whether it’s the sympathy of seeing a U.S. Olympic champion struggle in borderline poverty, a brother constantly reminding his sibling of his affection without receiving it back, or an eccentric millionaire offering a desperate man the word with no apparent ulterior motive.
‘Foxcatcher’ is the true story of John du Pont (Steve Carell), a multi-millionaire who, in the 1980s, establishes a wrestling camp on his estate which he hopes to turn into the home of the USA team and create an athletic empire. John recruits World and Olympic champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to join his camp. Lured by a father figure and the opportunity to get out from his brother Dave’s (Mark Ruffalo) shadow, Mark jumps at the chance and a relationship and bond is immediately forged. John’s eccentricities and addictions soon take their toll on Mark and eventually their relationship leads John to also seek Dave to join the team in the lead up to the 1988 Olympics. With tensions too high and John’s mental stability wavering, everything comes to a head when in 1996 John shoots dead Dave on his own property.
Obviously, this being a feature film and not a documentary, some “factual” tweaks are made here and there in terms of timing, motivation and the bigger picture as the film chooses to solely focus on the triangle between the Schultz brothers and du Pont. However, with the aid of a wonderful director with roots in documentaries, a world class make-up team and the ability to research and hone the skills needed to portray real and living people, the trio of Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo are transfixing. Film-wise the pacing is a little off with drawn-out scenes and dialogue, one too many awkward pauses and questionable likeability amongst the characters. Never really establishing a favourable opinion on any of the people involved, the ultimate punctuation of Dave’s murder never really delivers the knockout punch it’s working towards. Fascinating nonetheless, 'Foxcatcher' does deliver some truly powerhouse performances.