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REVIEW: “Foxcatcher” a fascinating true story of Olympic glory

Channing Tatum stars in "Foxcatcher."
Channing Tatum stars in “Foxcatcher.”

“Foxcatcher,” which stars Steve Carell as John du Pont, Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, and Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz, is an utterly fascinating true story about two Olympic gold medal winning wrestling brothers.

Multimillionaire John recruits Mark so he can train at his farm estate called Foxcatcher, which functions as a wrestling training camp of sorts. John explains to Mark that he loves the sport of wrestling and wants to help him get ready for the 1988 Olympics.

John’s mother, played in the film by Vanessa Redgrave, does not approve of wrestling, which she considers to be a low sport. When Mark asks his brother Dave if he’d be willing to join him at the training facility, Dave declines because he has a wife and kids.

The movie very skillfully explores deep themes (patriotism, masculinity, loyalty, and mental illness) and the acting is top-notch.

John makes it clear that he wants to see America get back on top again and says to Mark that he can refer to him as “Eagle” or “Golden Eagle,” a patriotic reference. Also, we see images of the American flag appearing in the film. The Olympic preparation of the wrestlers further emphasizes this patriotic mentality.

Through Channing Tatum’s character Mark Schultz, we are immersed in the testosterone world of wrestling. This is a sport where men’s bodies are on full display during matches, specifically their chest area. Thus, being in top shape and looking good is something they think about regularly. In addition, male domination is another key to the sport, where one tries to pin his opponent down on the mat. As seen in the movie, Mark Schultz puts in a lot of training (both individually and pairing up with other wrestlers) and worries when it looks like he might not be able to meet his weight class at one point.

After John du Pont recruits Mark Schultz and begins to personally train and mentor him, we sense a bond growing between the two of them. Mark begins to see du Pont as a father figure and he even gets at this in a speech he gives to a group of people. Once Mark’s older brother Dave arrives at Foxcatcher, things begin to change, as Mark feels less valued than he once did and his sense of loyalty to du Pont starts to crumble. Du Pont, with all the money and luxurious room and board he offers the Schultz brothers, expects that they will be loyal to him in return. This is something that really matters to him.

Du Pont, as portrayed exceedingly well by Steve Carell, more than likely had a mental illness. He had a very high sense of self and the way he carried himself socially left much to be desired. He had a tendency to stare at others and create awkward pauses in conversation. Because the wrestlers at his training facility thought so highly of him and what he had been able to accomplish, for the most part they were able to overlook his serious shortcomings. Carell completely transforms himself into this character and is nearly unrecognizable.

Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz gives an internal performance where he doesn’t say all that much, but conveys quite a bit with his mannerisms and body language.

Meanwhile, Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz is the voice of reason in the film, and Ruffalo gives a nuanced performance, which is really effective.

The cinematography (lots of greys, snowy landscapes) perfectly captures the downbeat mood of the film.

As accomplished as the movie was, it did stumble in some areas. I felt there was a scene missing where Mark’s character learns of a key development late in the movie. Also, I thought the ending felt too abrupt.

This is a haunting movie that is sure to provoke discussion afterward. Everything about it is first-rate.

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