Foxcatcher: leading the pack

Jon Fuge

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With the awards season in full swing, it’s easy to get a little cynical. The constant praise, the gongs and the god-awful speeches are enough to get any film fan’s back up. But, in among the 10-a-penny biopics – the saccharine, faux-inspirational Oscar gold – there are always some films that truly deserve our attention. For my money, Foxcatcher leads this year’s pack.

Foxcatcher is based on the astonishing true story of John Du Pont (Steve Carell), a multimillionaire recluse whose obsession with wrestling and his own esteem has a devastating effect on the lives of two Olympic gold medallist brothers, Mark (Channing Tatum) and David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).

The greatness of Foxcatcher stems from this trifecta of stellar performances. Everything about them is finely composed. Each of the three main stars have had prosthetics applied, hair colour changed, or receded, and hold themselves in a distinct manner.

Set against the grey mist of his sprawling Foxcatcher ranch, Du Pont is a snivelling, pathetic madman. Desperate for admiration, he lures the brothers to his ranch in the hope of training Olympic champions and being the mentor and father figure he always wished to be.

Ruffalo, meanwhile, is the emotional anchor of the piece. David Schultz is a family man who has enjoyed the fame and financial stability that his young brother, Mark, craves. Ruffalo’s warm, likeable performance provides some much-needed respite from the unrelenting tension of the film.

But fine as these two performances are, the film belongs to Tatum. Downplaying his pretty-boy looks with a more beaten and bruised visage, Tatum completely disappears behind this hulking, but wounded, brute. Mark Schultz is the underdog of the piece. Bound up in self-loathing and jealousy of his older brother, you desperately want him to succeed. And, in any other sports movie, he would. But this is no regular sports movie, and the presence of the sinister Du Pont guarantees that things will not work out as planned.

Haunting, uncomfortable and heart-wrenching, if any film should win gold, it’s Foxcatcher.

Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.

Watch the trailer for Foxcatcher:

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