Monday, March 30, 2015

Foxcatcher (2014)

Review #1,152






THE SCOOP
Director:  Bennett Miller
Cast:  Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
Plot:  The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

Genre:  Biography / Drama / Sport
Awards:  Won Best Director (Cannes).  Nom. for 5 Oscars - Best Director, Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Makeup & Hairstyling.
Runtime:  134min
Rating:  M18 for some drug use and a scene of violence.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“I just don't wanna let you down.”

It is rather peculiar that no major distributor picked this up for release in Singapore.  It has recognizable stars, awards credibility, and is not quite the hard-to-sell arthouse movie that mainstream moviegoers would shun.  Perhaps it is the subject matter – of wrestling as a competitive sport, and the dark and shocking story that would unfold. 

But I don’t think that is a valid excuse.  In any case, the Singapore Film Society has put their faith in this title, bringing it here for limited release.  You should not miss this because this is a terrific film, based on a true story that you probably wouldn’t believe exists in the annals of sports history. 

Directed by Bennett Miller, who won the Best Director award at Cannes, Foxcatcher is an unsettling movie about two brothers (played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) who represent the USA at the Olympics, and are sought by eccentric multimillionaire and patriot John du Pont (Steve Carell) to train at his Foxcatcher compound.  Their union is by turns fruitful and troubling, but always utterly fascinating.  That is all you should know. 

The film boasts excellent performances by the trio, particularly Carell, who sheds his comedian persona, and turns himself into a cold, seemingly detached person with a hidden agenda.  Their triangular relationship is odd, and as much as Foxcatcher is about their story, it is also about their psychology.

Speaking of which, Miller’s film operates like a psychological mystery-drama.  It opens with old footage of the Foxcatcher farm, as if foreshadowing something ominous.  The rest of the movie is shot with the kind of cinematography that brings to the fore a stifling sense of impending tragedy.  The film looks chilling and haunting, like some of David Fincher’s works.  It is also a sports movie, with sequences recreating Olympics wrestling. 

Miller, who last directed Moneyball (2011) and Capote (2005), appears to be positioning himself as a solid filmmaker of biographical dramas, with intriguing characters and the weight of history foregrounded in his narratives.  Foxcatcher is a must-watch; it takes its time to develop the characters, whom I’m sure by the time the end credits roll, you would want to find out more about their lives.  It will intrigue you from start to end.

Verdict:  With a trio of excellent performances from the main cast, this dark and coldly satisfying sports drama will intrigue you from start to end.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)






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