‘Foxcatcher’ is a surprisingly devastating masterpiece


John Flanegin

With Columbia’s annual True/False film fest a little less than two weeks away, beginning March 5th,  I decided to familiarize myself with one of the festival’s premier venues, the Ragtag cinema, and saw director Bennett Miller’s latest film, Foxcatcher. What I witnessed was an enthralling two hour and fourteen minute experience consisting of eerily brilliant dialogue, incredible acting, and an emotionally unstable plot that stuck with me long after I had exited the theater.
The film is based upon the true story of John E. DuPont, a lonely, deranged billionaire who uses his estate and wealth to house and train the US Olympic Wrestling team in the months leading to the 1988 Seoul Olympics. DuPont, played by Steve Carell, begins his scheme by first reaching out to 1984 Gold Medallist Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum, offering the grappler an opportunity to train on the DuPont’s famous Foxcatcher estate in preparation for the 1987 World Championships. The unlikely pair quickly befriend each other and DuPont becomes an almost-father-like figure to the isolated Schultz, and gives Mark the role of Captain as the team inches closer to Seoul.
However, with DuPont having no wrestling or coaching experience he realizes he must reach out to Dave Schultz, played by Mark Ruffalo, who is Mark’s older brother and an Olympic champion himself. Dave is hesitant to uproot his family, but when DuPont offers a large sum of money and a coaching position he jumps on the opportunity to once again reunite with Mark. The brothers constantly butt heads as Mark struggles to finally get out of the shadow of his brother. Meanwhile, Dave and DuPont also have their own disagreements with John frequently taking the reigns from the elder Schultz in an effort to impress his dying mother, which could be a movie in and of itself. The three become increasingly hostile as tempers flare and DuPont becomes upset with both Schultz.
The film has many dark moments involving drug use, depression induced rages, and many explicit conversations that add to the already disturbing atmosphere whilst on the 800 acre Pennsylvania estate. Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo all capture the essence of their real life counterparts, with Carell’s performance standing out in particular as he moves from the comedic sphere to a much more serious role, and should be considered a  frontrunner for an Academy Award.
The story progresses beautifully, always evolving and encompassing changes in the environment as well as within the characters themselves with the last third of the film becoming increasingly tense. The soundtrack is also top-notch with dark emotional orchestral pieces weaving their way in and out whilst the viewer takes in many of the landscapes within the film.
While the movie is about wrestling, it is not as big a part as one might think with the scenes taking place on the mat being mediocre at best, making it obvious that Tatum nor Ruffalo are anywhere near the caliber of the wrestlers they are portraying. Instead Bennett seems to focus more on the psychological issues that all three characters experience throughout the film, and comes to an end with a metaphoric and literal bang.
Foxcatcher itself is like that of a wrestling match, brutal and violent, but also graceful and intimate. It is sincerely a film that is in a genre of its own, taking a true story and translating it into a dark twisted fantasy that will resonate with viewers from all walks of life.