"Mother, I am leading men. And I am giving America... Hope."
John E. du Pont (Steve Carell)
The story of John Eleuthère du Pont, a member of the mighty du Pont weapons empire, and the Schultz brothers, perhaps the greatest Olympic wrestling champion brother team, is a dark spot on America's sporting history. Bennett Miller's latest dip into the world of American sporting mavericks is a distinct tonal shift from his earlier Moneyball, but is also one of the most compelling and unsettling films to come out of Hollywood for quite some time. Detailing the rise and fall of one rich man's desire to lead the American Wrestling team to Olympic glory, at the heart of this uncompromising fable is three standout performances from three very different types of American actor - the matinee idol (Channing Tatum), the comedian (Steve Carell) and the Method man (Mark Ruffalo). Such diverse characteristics for an ensemble - but each performance is pure film alchemy. Ruffalo is always masterful in his work and his paternal & loving Dave Schultz is the closest in spirit to the audience's viewpoint as he enters this bizarre scenario. Carell is almost unrecognizable under the prosthetic nose and squinting eyes as du Pont, but his transformative performance is laced with unknown threat and paranoid confusion, banishing away all memories of Brick Tamland for the film's duration. And then there is Tatum - arguably the standout of the group, whose isolated and vulnerable "lunk" Mark searching for acceptance and recognition is the film's real emotional core.
Miller and his writers shade every scene with palpable unease and a veritable sense of dread. What does this strange rich guy really want to achieve with his plans for the wrestling team? Maternal acceptance, paternal longing, the need for glory... Miller and his crew weave each strand of these themes into the film, leaving the audience to interpret whatever they can from this tragic true story. Some have criticized the film for suggesting unmerited homo-erotic undertones to proceedings (the real Mark Schultz included), but that would be to debase events. The overwhelming need for connection is the film's message - a sensation that everyone has felt at some stage in life. And despite the odd bum note (the loss of Tatum during the final act is truly felt, for example) Miller and his team have crafted a masterful American modern sports drama - one that will stay with you long after you leave the auditorium.
One of the most powerful films about sport ever made, Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher is a masterpiece of acting, writing and direction. Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo all hit career-best levels of intensity and skill in a film that pins you into submission from beginning to end.
"What is filmmaking but groping in the dark?" - Alexander Payne