Friday 9 January 2015

Review: Foxcatcher

World of Blackout Film Review

Foxcatcher Poster

Cert: 15 / 134 mins / Dir. Bennett Miller / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

Well, this is a weird film. There, I said it. Sparsely soundtracked and packed with strangely hypnotic, extended silences, Foxcatcher begins intensely and arrestingly, with Olympic gold-medallist wrestler Mark Schultz reduced to giving lacklustre speeches at elementary schools, and receiving a phone call from a representative of a Mr John du Pont, requesting an expenses-paid meeting in Philadelphia and offering little more information. What follows is two hours of psychological one-upmanship, with Schultz, his elder brother and du Pont moving through various phases of the coach/athlete relationship, testing boundaries and questioning their motivations.

The problem, for me, is that there wasn't isn't really any gathering momentum in the story. It's in the weird-zone from frame one, and it pretty much stays at that level throughout. The performances are outstanding; the narrative bored the arse off me. I'm not a "sport" person at the best of times, and the wrestling isn't 'a character' in Foxcatcher, it's just a background setting. Despite being centered around the sport, most of what we see is in the training gym, and when the matches are shown, they're shot and edited with all the intensity of someone packing their shopping at a checkout. There is no 'climactic match' in this sports film; the real tension happens well outside of the ring.

And it's not to say that I actively disliked Foxcatcher. Carell and Tatum are on fine, fine form here. In particular, the cocaine-scene in the helicopter reminded me for all the world of a Stewart Lee routine, pushing the envelope of ridiculousness and repetition, forcing the audience to re-evaluate what's being presented to them.

But the longer it went on, the more my interest waned. Most bafflingly, it appears that a lot of the events aren't absolutely true anyway, and if this is the film that comes out of a fictionalised retelling, I dread to think how dull The Truth™ would have been.

The story, as it is, it well told, but when you don't particularly care either way about any of the characters, two and a quarter hours is a long time to sit in their presence as they say little and look furtively around the room. Watch Foxcatcher for the performances, but don't blame me if you come away none the wiser…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Oh, probably, if it's your thing.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
It's a rental, unless you're really a fan of psychological wrestling-based thrillers.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
In Carell and Tatum's cases, it's up there with the best of their work. Ruffalo's good enough, but then he usually is.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Oh, I have no fucking idea. Seriously.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I'll be a little puzzled.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, Steve Carell starred in the 2008 comedy Get Smart alongside Terence Stamp, who played Chancellor Valorum in The Phantom Menace. Carell also played himself, of course, in an episode of Life's Too Short, alongside our favourite Ewok, Warwick Davis.

ALTERNATIVELY, Mark Ruffalo is perhaps best known for his work as Bruce Banner / The Hulk in the Avengers universe, alongside Sam 'Mace Windu' Jackson, and he also took the lead in last year's Begin Again next to Keira Knightley, who played handmaiden Sabé in The Phantom Menace.

OR you could go for Channing Tatum, who appeared in GI Joe: Retaliation, as did Ray Park (Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace). Tatum also appeared in 2012's Haywire, as did Ewan McGregor, aka the Prequel-era Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Foxcatcher also stars, of course, Vanessa Redgrave as Jean du Pont. Redgrave starred in 1979's Bear Island, as did Christopher 'Count Dooku' Lee. She also appeared in the 1974 adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express with Michael York, who'd go on to voice Dr Nuvo Vindi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

You see, when I was looking to re-vamp the 7-questions at the beginning of the year, I thought it'd be nice to include a sort of "Six Degrees Of Star Wars" option. The thing is, I don't think anyone really believes that Star Wars hasn't permeated the entire entertainment industry, so it's not actually going to prove anything. And far from being a six-step chain, there's usually a two-step link that can be made; if a film's performers haven't directly contributed to the Galaxy Far, Far Away, they've pretty much worked with someone who has.

Anyway, I'll carry on with the question in future reviews.
It's just a lot easier than I'd thought it'd be.
I'll probably only do one link, though.
Just wanted to clear that up.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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