Friday, January 16, 2015

Foxcatcher

by Simon Mansell, Writing Intern

I wanted to wait for the Oscar nominations before reviewing this movie. Then, I'd be able to relate the accolades to the film. After watching the film, I can say it deserves a nomination. Critics and fans say that the film isn't quite Birdman or The Grand Budapest Hotel, but I disagree. For me, this is the best film of the year. 

Foxcatcher follows the tragic true story of the murder of former Olympic wrestler and trainer Dave Schultz at Foxcatcher Farms in 1996. The film primarily follows Dave's brother Mark Schultz, a 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist in amateur wrestling. One day he gets a phone call from millionaire John Du Pont, who wants Mark to train, and teach wrestlers, at his Foxcatcher Farms in preparation for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. 

When Mark arrives there, he learns that John is much more than a millionaire. He learns that he is a devoted patriot to the United States and a huge fan of the sport of wrestling. The two then start to develop a loyal friendship to each other. John also attempts to convince Mark to get Dave to come to Foxcatcher as well. However as the months wear on, John starts to become paranoid about Mark. He believes that he is not capable of leading the team. He brings Dave in to take his place. Dave reluctantly comes in and puts a wedge in the relationship between Mark and John. As the months pass, John begins to become mentally unhinged. Add the pressure of his mother's disapproval of his wrestling antics and her eventual death—John begins to go insane. Years later, with Mark now gone, John’s mental state leads to a tragic incident, which has gone down in the annals of tragic wrestling stories. 

One of the most well received aspects of this film is the performances. The film is led by three career re-defining performances. The film stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo as John Du Pont, Mark Schultz, and Dave Schultz respectively. Carell gives the most chilling performance of the year. He uses his natural comedic sensibility to great effect. He twists common comic tactics making his performance uncomfortable to watch. It defines uncomfortable to watch.

Tatum also gives the best performance of his career. I am often critical of Tatum in dramatic roles. He typically seems somewhat robotic, while bringing nothing unique to his roles. However, in Foxcatcher, he goes to dark places; he’s extremely intense. Perhaps the best performance of the film comes from Mark Ruffalo. He gives the most natural performance of the film, which is probably why he isn’t getting as much attention as Carell and Tatum. He is unrecognizable in the film, and has fantastic chemistry with Tatum and Carell.

Director Bennett Miller is outstanding. I have yet to see his two previous films Moneyball and Capote, but I know they garnered critical acclaim worldwide. So going into this film, I looked forward to an acclaimed directing style. He creates such an uncomfortable atmosphere in this film. The camera lingers on actors for long periods of time--without background music.  Overall, it’s one of the year’s best in direction. He deserves the Best Director nomination.

I give Foxcatcher a 9.2/10. It’s the best film of 2014, and one of the best I've seen in years. Anyone who loves dark and creepy--or intellectual and haunting--films should check this out; it’s a rare experience.
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