(Bennett Miller, 2014)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: A sports drama more interested in the sportsmen than the sport, 'Foxcatcher' engages its audience quietly. Robbed of a gold: A remarkable Channing Tatum.
It's hard to know exactly what message Bennett Miller is trying to achieve with 'Foxcatcher', his stone cold wrestling drama starring Channing Tatum as a determined Olympic level wrestler, Mark Ruffalo as his downtrodden trainer brother and a transformed Steve Carrell as their dead behind the eyes multi-millionaire sponsor. Is it the danger of ambition? The lure of power? The destructive claustrophobia of family? 'Foxcatcher' seems without a game plan or even a traditional plot structure but it nonetheless enthrals.
So much of the attention has gone to Carell who trades his comedy for brutal drama to Oscar nominated effect but really it's Tatum's hour. He anchors the film so well for the first three quarters it seems a shame that the final climactic act is suddenly handed to a Carell/Ruffalo while Tatum drifts into the shadows. It's a true story and sports fans may well know the conclusion of the story but in terms of cinema, the focal shift damages the film's skilful climb.
As he did with 'Capote' and 'Moneyball', Miller proves himself to be a director who trusts his actors to do so much of the talking, framing them with elegantly distanced compositions and peppering his scenes with under the radar detail that seems recall Hollywood's 1970s paranoia-infused style of filmmaking.
'Foxcatcher' may be slow, but it's involving and certainly benefits from some of the year's finest performances. It may not take home the gold medals but it's a worthy team that fights its corner without baiting.