Film, In Review: Foxcatcher

In the world of sport, power consumes the individual, their opponents, and anyone else invested in a game’s viable outcome. On field, on the ice, or on the mat one thing is inevitable – there will always be a victor.

Channing Tatum (Mark Schultz) and Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz) in "Foxcatcher"

Channing Tatum (Mark Schultz) and Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz) in “Foxcatcher”

Years of training will flourish into years of fame and glory which will later wean into years of obscurity and reflection where the craft no longer becomes their own but that of others. It’s the cycle of death for most athletes; the challenge to stay afloat no matter how easy it may be to drown in mediocrity. In “Foxcatcher”, mediocrity becomes the testament of will and the ultimate determiner between the weak and the strong.

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Steve Carell (John E. du Pont) and Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz) in “Foxcatcher”

The 1988 Olympics nears with each passing minute. Former Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is strenuously committed to earning another gold medal before his wrestling career comes to a coachable halt. Paralyzed beneath the glorified wing of his older brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), Mark seeks the gold medal not for praise alone, but for familial triumph. Both Mark and his brother each possess a gold medal, however, Mark’s success at this Olympics would change that.

Though Mark amasses an immense amount of respect for his older brother, underneath it all, he revels in the chance to become the greatest. Opportunity beckons when a phone call from wealthy businessman and philanthropist gives Mark the ability to train his own team and compete under the mentorship of one Coach John E. du Pont (Steve Carell).

Steve Carell (John E. du Pont) in "Foxcatcher"

Steve Carell (John E. du Pont) in “Foxcatcher”

John however, won’t settle for just Mark. Like a rabid hoarder, he must have all his pieces – he must have Dave too. Tensions rise when Dave refuses to join Mark due to prior commitments, which then forces John to compensate with the younger sibling, temporarily. Eventually, John’s persistence overwhelmingly persuades Dave to finally agree to Coach at his facility. Loads of training and a world tournament later leads to an unsurmountable distrust between Mark and John which eventually creates a cataclysm set for destruction.


Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz) and Channing Tatum (Mark Schultz) in “Foxcatcher”

Directed by Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher” is undeniably a gripping feature, even for non – wrestling fans.  Praise for Steve Carell’s transformative portrayal of John E. du Pont’s magnetization of power garners further appreciation for the actor and his craft. Supporting actors Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum as Dave and Mark Schultz respectively, complete this aggressive testosterone induced triad. Editing team Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy, and Conor O’Neill are admirably applauded for their dramatic effects during the more intense wrestling scenes. The difference between silence and the sudden presence of searing sound is enormously vital in creating suspenseful cinema.  Screenwriters  E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman created a compelling and complex individual in that of John E. duPont yet seemed to leave Mark Schultz at a bit of an emotional crossroads.

From what we see of Mark, he trains hard and he trains daily, sharpening his routine so that he can be at his ultimate best. Throughout the film, we watch as the brother’s circle each other, one sibling offering comfort in the face of another’s disappointment yet Mark’s emotional range is extensively limited.

“Apart from the few moments he lashes out at Dave for his unintentional ignorance we see little of Mark, his deepest emotions muddled in front of a mirror to which he silently confides.”

Audiences are unable to decipher the scope of Mark’s emotional range if only through Dave, otherwise, there is little explanation for his emotional instability. His relationship with John is also questionable but nonetheless interesting.

Based on a true story, “Foxcatcher” is intended to challenge the viewer to see beyond John’s apparent lunacy and dissect what it is that makes him relish vicariously in the glory of others. Consequently, the film’s emphasis on power, and more importantly, the loss of it, makes it a dangerous weapon in the hands of the ordinary.


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