Director Bennett Miller and cinematographer Greig Fraser,
(whose cameras brought such menace to Zero
Dark Thirty) provide a pervasive sense of impending doom to this bleak tale
of megalomania and murder as it recounts the true story of social scion John E.
du Pont (Steve Carell) and his macabre efforts to build a privately-financed
U.S. Olympic wrestling team in the late 1980’s headlined by Gold Medalist Mark
Schultz (Channing Tatum) and coached by his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo).
The story unfolds with surgical precision until its shattering climax, in the
process garnering Oscar nominations for Miller, Carell & Ruffalo. All three
are richly deserved.
At age 47, Miller has the distinction of having directed
only 3 feature films in his career, yet producing a record 7 acting nominations
for his cast members in the process. In 2005, Miller gave audiences Philip
Seymour Hoffman’s electrifying portrait of Capote
in the film of the same name, and 6 years later he delighted baseball fans with
Moneyball and made Jonah Hill a star
in the process. Here he elicits extraordinary performances from all three of his
male protagonists, pitting Carell’s delusional, self-absorbed multimillionaire
against Tatum’s brooding, vulnerable and inarticulate wrestler whose life after
winning gold in 1964 descended into a hand-to-mouth existence despite his
brother Dave’s calming presence and emotional support. These 3 actors embody
their characters with such understated performances that the tension which
undergirds their interactions seems organically inevitable, like the process
which allows corrosion to eat away at the surface strength of unattended steel.
Using the misty, somber vistas of The Valley Forge National
Park as both visible backdrop to du Pont’s manicured estate and metaphor for
the obscured emotions involved in du Pont and Mark’s pseudo-familial
relationship, Foxcatcher proceeds in
the manner of a classic Greek tragedy, with du Pont & Mark circling each
other like opponents in the final round of a physical competition, with only
Ruffalo’s clear-headed and quietly calming presence preventing their mutual
The script, with its pared down dialogue and funeral pacing,
serves only to heighten the wrenching emotion of Foxcatcher’s denouement.
The Verdict? A brooding examination of manipulation and
miscommunication - - and one of the best movies of the current season.
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