Bennett Miller appears to have the magic touch, as his two most recent films (Capote and Moneyball) were nominated for Best Picture Oscars. Foxcatcher, the highly anticipated biographical drama starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, will undoubtedly join the ranks of Miller’s previous films when the Academy Award nominations are announced in January. Miller’s already won the Best Director Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, an honor believed to be more prestigious in some circles and by yours truly. Greig Fraser’s cinematography is littered with mesmerizing wide shots and transitions to handheld closeups during the film’s heart-stopping moments.
However, the real strength of Foxcatcher is in the performances of its three main characters. Steve Carell, who’s dabbled in dramatic roles with Little Miss Sunshine, gives the performance of his career as the incredibly peculiar and isolated antagonist, John DuPont. I’d highly recommend watching the self-commissioned and wildly bizarre documentary on DuPont before seeing Carell’s performance. Carell is that much more astonishing given the context of DuPont’s real life behaviors and idiosyncrasies. In addition to the much lauded performance by Carell, Mark Ruffalo completely inhabits the character of Dave Schultz, both physically and in his performance as the former Olympic Champion. Ruffalo’s wrestling background also pays dividends in numerous scenes throughout the film. The incredible casting and performance of all-time great Vanessa Redgrave as DuPont’s mother is revelatory.
Ultimately, the real highlight is the breakthrough performance of Channing Tatum. His realization of Mark Schultz serves as the film’s centerpiece, and his execution of Shultz’s physicality is spellbinding. Carell deserves his likely Oscar nomination, but Tatum also deserves to be considered. Foxcatcher is the work of a director operating on a much higher level than most within Hollywood. The fact that the film took so long to find funding and the actors needed to take pay cuts to make it happen says a lot about the state of today’s film industry.