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“Foxcatcher”: a collision course

VFF action film tells true story with superstar cast

From the acclaimed director of "Capote" and "Moneyball," the freshly released released “Foxcatcher” is an intense psychological drama. The film is a powerful platform for its three leads, telling the true story of multimillionaire John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) murder of Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).

After winning gold in the 1984 Olympic Games, Mark Schultz is recruited by John du Pont to be the star of a wrestling team of future gold medalists that du Pont plans to coach. While he takes Mark, du Pont pushes for Dave, the star brother, to join his team.

Carell has crafted an identity based on outrageous comedic characters, but his subdued performance in “Foxcatcher” is exceptional. With an icy facial mask and a disconcerting speech pattern, Carell is extremely unsettling as John du Pont. He espouses the need for brotherhood among his team, but these statements are false values meant to cover his inability to live up his mother’s expectations and his family’s legacy in a sport she considers to be “low.” This familial tension drives du Pont’s eccentric moments (especially unsettling is his insistence that his team refer to him as a mentor) which later explode into horrific action.

Channing Tatum is likewise excellent as Mark Schultz, Dave’s younger brother who, despite his own Olympic gold medal, cannot get out of his brother’s shadow. From the first scene, Mark’s desperation to escape from this subordinate position defines every decision he makes. He willingly lets himself become a lapdog for du Pont for the chance to win on his own, regardless of the destructive effect it takes on his life. Tatum, also known for his lighter roles in movies such as “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike,” offers a darker and more dynamic character in this film.

Dave is a grounded family man looking out for his brother. This character adds another interesting layer to Tatum’s performance. Mark resents Dave not because he mistreats him or degrades him; on the contrary, Dave is Mark’s number one fan. Mark only resents Dave because he always seems to be better.

Though this dynamic is directly addressed at a certain point, an early sparring scene tells all. With no dialogue, Mark gets more and more frustrated as Dave keeps besting him, perfectly defining their relationship. For a movie that runs longer than two hours, “Foxcatcher” is surprisingly light on dialogue, but silent moments like this provide some excellent character work.

Despite its length and rather abrupt ending, “Foxcatcher” thrives on the talents of its leads. The introduction of these dynamic characters to one another starts a collision course of action and destruction, offering a fascinating look into a historic event.

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