Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Tara Subkoff, Brett Rice, Guy Boyd, Corey Jantzen
Runtime: 2 hrs 10 mins
Rating: M18 (Some Drug Use)
Released By: SFS
Opening Day: 4 April 2015 @ Filmgarde Bugis+
Synopsis: Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is struggling in obscurity and poverty in Wisconsin when he is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move on to his lavish estate to form a team and to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Schultz seizes the opportunity, eager to step out of the shadow of his revered older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), a prominent wrestling coach and Gold Medal winner himself. With his vast financial resources and state-of-the-art training facility at Foxcatcher Farm, du Pont appoints himself head coach of the team, eager to win the respect of his peers and the approval of his condemning mother (Vanessa Redgrave). The dynamic between Schultz and du Pont deepens as Mark embraces his benefactor as a father figure. But du Pont's mercurial personality and psychological gameplay begins to weigh heavily on Mark's shaky self-esteem, undermining his abilities on the mat. When du Pont's favoritism shifts to brother Dave — who possesses the authority and confidence both he and Mark lack — the trio is propelled towards a tragedy no one could have foreseen.
“You ungrateful ape.” That’s not you speaking is it, Michael Scott?
Ever since this reviewer watched the trailer for Bennett Miller’s biographical true crime drama film based on multimillionaire John E du Pont, he has been haunted by those three words spouted by Steve Carell to Channing Tatum.
Carell, whom many know as the eccentrically adorable Michael Scott on the highly acclaimed TV sitcom The Office, has shown critics and viewers how he can balance his comedy roots with more serious material that tests his dramatic capabilities. Sure, we laughed at the comedian in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy(2004), The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) and Evan Almighty (20007). But we have also seen the man impressively play a sad widow in Dan in Real Life (2007), a man who found love just before an asteroid hits Earth in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) and an unlikable boyfriend in The Way, Way Back (2013).
In his darkest role yet, the 52 year old actor plays a rich wrestling enthusiast who recruits gold medalist wrestlers Mark Schultz (Tatum in fine form here) and his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo proving that he can be more than an angry Hulk after 2013’s Begin Again) to help coach American wrestlers for participation in national, world and Olympic competitions. Those who are familiar with the sport will know that Dave was eventually murdered by du Pont in January 1996.
Carell puts away his funnyman persona and delivers a compelling and disturbing performance that has caught the attention of juries at countless film festival and awards, including a Best Actor nomination at the 87th Academy Awards. You increasingly feel for Carell’s du Pont as he engages the Schultz brothers throughout the film, knowing that the story will only end on a tragic note. This is clearly a lonely but proud man who is in need of help, but he is in a place you know you do not want to venture into, making the characterisation extra complex. For that, Carell has added another commendable entry into his already remarkable filmography.
Elsewhere, Ruffalo is empathetic as the older Schultz brother (check out how he looks uncannily like the real Dave Schultz), earning him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the recent Oscars. Rounding up the male ensemble is Tatum, who we are growing to like quite a bit (if you need convincing, go check out 21 Jump Streetand 22 Jump Street). Although paling in comparison when put alongside Carell and Ruffalo, the hunky Tatum puts his well built bod to good use here. Supporting characters are played by Sienna Miller (American Sniper) and Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement), who does a lot with her character as du Pont’s strict mother with the very limited screen time.
Miller has helmed acclaimed films like Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011), and he is in fine form here. The 2014 Cannes Film Festival awarded the filmmaker with a Best Director accolade for his work on this highly recommended film. Throughout its 130 minute runtime, the mood is aptly icy and distant, but there is also an unsettling sense of empowerment that grips you from start to finish. You’ll be engrossed by the power play between the three men, as you ponder upon the dynamics of sport, wealth, what it takes to be in power, and ultimately, murder.
(Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum deliver perfect performances in this chillingly engrossing film about the power play between sport, wealth and murder)
Review by John Li