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Foxcatcher - DVD Review

Foxcatcher

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

BENNETT Miller tackles another dark chapter in American history with the sombre Foxcatcher, an engrossing but heavy-going experience marked out by a trio of great performances.

The chapter in question concerns Olympic wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) and their relationship with billionaire benefactor and trainer John du Pont (Steve Carell).

The siblings were already winners when taken under the stewardship of du Pont but while David (Ruffalo) was widely celebrated, Mark (Tatum) had reluctantly lived in his brother’s shadow. Hence, when it is Mark who is initially approached by du Pont to be the figurehead of the US challenge at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, he jumps at the chance.

But while du Pont becomes as much a father figure as he is a tutor, it slowly becomes clear there is a darkness to him that puts the previously strong bond between the brothers to the test.

The climax is genuinely shocking and may well leave you cold. But just as he did with the Oscar-winning Capote, Miller has created a fiercely engrossing character study that examines the flip-side of the American Dream.

Carell’s du Pont, in particular, is an eerily compelling presence; a man who sees himself as a fierce patriot but who has been forced to live in the shadow of his own mother for too many years. In Mark, he possibly sees a kindred spirit as well as the child he may never have. But his ruthless manipulation of both Mark and David for his own ends showcases a much more sinister side to his make-up.

Tatum, too, excels in what is arguably his best performance to date. The actor delivers a warts and all performance that places an untapped vulnerability to the fore and he remains a tragic figure throughout – someone desperate as much for recognition as he is for sporting success, who always seems one step away from heartbreak no matter how hard he tries.

Ruffalo, meanwhile, brings an endearing everyman quality to his family man that makes him effortlessly endearing. Yet there’s a naivety too that only allows the central tragedy to take shape.

Bennett’s direction is deliberately slow-burning while the tone he creates is extremely sombre, sometimes stiflingly so. Even in the film’s celebratory moments, there’s a sense of despair or doom; happiness is a fleeting commodity for both characters and viewers.

And yet in spite of this darkness, Foxcatcher remains utterly compelling, buoyed by the quality of that central trio and Miller’s intelligent and thought-provoking dissection of the grim tale at hand. His film is therefore a great companion piece to Capote and a powerful and sobering piece of filmmaking in its own right.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 134mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: May 18, 2015