Foxcatcher: Review

Trailers are often used to great effect in creating buzz about a movie, and of shaping your expectations of what you are going to get if you venture out to the cinema to catch the film.  But sometimes the trailers don’t capture the true feeling of the film, and leave you a little bemused afterwards.  Sadly, Foxcatcher is a great example where the film doesn’t quite live up to the trailer’s hype.

Foxcatcher is about the true story of wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), and his goal of competing at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.  Having already won gold in the 1984 games, he was a star of the sport – but constantly overshadowed by his older brother and trainer Dave (Mark Ruffalo).  However, “ornithologist, philanthropist and philatelist” John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) steps in with his family’s considerable wealth to offer Mark an offer he couldn’t refuse – great training facility’s at Du Pont’s Foxcatcher Farms as well as a good salary.  Du Pont’s love of wrestling was the supposed reason for the invitation, but as the film progresses it becomes clear that there is more to Du Pont’s reasoning than meets the eye.

The real highlight of the film is Steve Carrell’s performance as John Du Pont.  In what is the first non-comedy role that I have seen him in, Carrell embodies the character of Du Pont spectacularly – with the awkwardness and sluggishness creating a great unease in watching him, and a sense of unpredictability that keeps your intrigue through the film.  His background of isolation and loneliness is clear, and the true meaning of what his wrestling team at Foxcatcher is to him is that he finally has friends and in Mark, what he calls a son.

The problem with Foxcatcher is that despite the trailer promising some action and suspense, it is largely lacking from the film.  It plods along slowly through the events leading up to the Seoul Olympics and Mark’s time training for them.  While this could be forgiven if it was in the interest of building the plot or building characters, only Du Pont receives any real treatment in this way.  Schultz and Du Pont’s relationship experiences a rise and fall through the movie – and neither is explained particularly well.  Schultz is obviously grateful for the opportunities given to him, but I don’t feel that Channing Tatum was the most exuberant actor to show these emotions.  Similarly, when the two have their falling out it doesn’t appear to be driven by action – just a gradual realisation in the character’s mind that isn’t relayed to the audience.  This is where Foxcatcher trips up and loses the thread of its story.

The slow pace of Foxcatcher is added to itself by its minimalism, in that it tries to minimise dialogue and sound to an extent.  It certainly adds to the sense of unease around Du Pont, and perhaps says a little about the focus of the wrestlers themselves, but in a film that needed more action and excitement it didn’t help.

When I saw the trailer for Foxcatcher, I was assuming that I would be seeing a thrilling tale of a real life hero dealing with a man gone demented – and the obvious flashpoints that would happen in that situation.  In reality though, while the man demented was played very well, the action of the film didn’t set the pulse racing or even provide any real stand-out scenes.  Oscar-nominated it may be, but Foxcatcher could have been so much more.

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