Sunday, 18 January 2015



It is hardly a shock to see Steve Carell dominate the publicity for Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher. His performance, playing against type as a real-life madman and murderer , is nothing short of bedevilling. With the help of various prosthetic features, the familiar comedian exudes an eerie chill as the millionaire-turned wrestling sponsor who became ensnared in his own destructive mental breakdown. His demeanour is deliberately languid – though no less menacing – and, I believe, wholeheartedly worthy of the announced Oscar nomination.

Nevertheless, this subtly poised piece of acting is the focal point for elegant, serene and dazzling directing from the man behind Moneyball and Capote. Dwelling in moments devoid of dialogue or narrative pacing, the camera still captures the nuances and complexity of a man-made emotional mess.

Let’s face it; Olympic wrestling is an incredibly homoerotic sport. Miller’s script does nothing to diminish that unflattering image. The long, periodic training sequences have no rousing backing music or rapid montage á la Rocky. Instead they conjure up the same dark bodily fascination as Black Swan. It’s intimate, social and undoubtedly weird to see two men grope each other in such a contrived fashion. No wonder it has made such a fascinating film subject.

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) returns from the 1984 Olympics as a world champion but unable to escape his elder brother David’s (Mark Ruffalo) shadow. The unexpected intervention of super-rich philanthropist and egotist John du Pont (Steve Carell) offers a way to riches and fame in the sport that Mark loves. But at what personal cost?

Male angst is thrown about the script like a match-winning pin between two Herculean figures. All there is to be seen is men throwing about their bulk – physical or mental – in order to influence the ultimately fatal powerplays shown between the strutting characters. For this level of testosterone-laden drama there is not a single actor more dependable than Ruffalo. Once again he adds layers of unforeseen depth to a reasonably sane, run-of-the-mill everyman. And indeed, the young pretender, Channing Tatum, finally accomplishes the heights to which he has always teased audiences with. I always knew he had it in him (even after The Eagle) but it has taken longer than I had hoped for his dramatic talent to truly be revealed.

This male trio lock horns at the command of a director who is crafting astonishing pieces of art. Yes, I did just use the ‘a’ word, for this, given its full due, is a masterful canvas of human and natural frailty. The minutes of inconsequential acting and filming, which nonetheless crank up to a compelling climax, make that case alone.

If all other contenders match up to Foxcatcher, then the 2015 awards season will be a fantastic advertisement for the dwindling medium of cinema. 


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