Based on a True Story Capsule Review

TIFF Capsule Review: Foxcatcher

September 9, 2014Ben MK

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Wrestling with demons...

With their comedic roles, Steve Carell and Channing Tatum have proven that they can make us laugh. But we see a whole different side of the actors in Foxcatcher, director Bennett Miller's dramatization of the real-life tragedy surrounding Olympians Dave and Mark Schultz. In the film, Tatum plays Mark, a former wrestling champion who's desperate to step out of the shadow of his older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). But when he crosses paths with blue-blooded billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell), both his and his brother's lives are irrevocably changed.


When we first meet him, Mark's frustrated and going nowhere. It's been nearly three years since he and Dave brought home gold at the '84 Olympics, and though he aspires to compete in the upcoming games in Seoul, he can feel his chances slipping away by the second. Enter John — a self-professed patriot who claims to only want to see America win wrestling gold again — with an unexpected offer of financial support that could help Mark realize his dream. Dave, however, is skeptical of John's motivations, and rightfully so — for John's as sociopathic as he is patriotic, and there's no telling what he's capable of.

Returning to the true-crime genre of his debut feature, Capote, Miller keeps the narrative sparse, instead zeroing in on the more introspective moments of the story. And with the drama so tightly wound around their performances, Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo take center stage. Ruffalo's quietly understated portrayal grounds the film, but even though he's the most consummate dramatic actor of the three, it's Tatum and Carell whose performances will leave audiences slack-jawed. Juxtapositioning childlike naivety with volatile rage, this is Tatum's most emotionally vulnerable role to date; while Carell's turn as a man unhinged and utterly lacking in empathy is absolutely chill-inducing. Even if you already know the story, nothing can prepare you for how it plays out on-screen.  Ben Mk

Foxcatcher receives its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF 2014's Gala Presentations programme and is currently scheduled for a November 2014 release by Mongrel Media. Photo credit: Mongrel Media.

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