Foxcatcher is a kind of anti-sports film. There is no underdog to be found here, nor any last act victory, there is only somberness and gloom. Director Bennett Miller knows a thing or two about how to make such a film, having previously directed another true crime pic, Capote, and the fascinating and uniformly excellent Moneyball, also set in the world of sporting but more about the people behind it and less about the sports itself.

In Foxcatcher, based on real events, he explores the tricky, strange relationship between 3 men – two brothers who are Olympic gold medalists in freestyle wrestling and the billionaire tycoon who hires them to work at his estate and establish a team to compete during the next Olympics. The films presentation of this situation is layered and thematically complex. We see from early scenes that Mark, the younger brother played with uncanny conviction by Channing Tatum, constantly lives in the shadow of Dave, the elder brother. He quietly resents this, but when John du Pont (an icy Steve Carell with prosthetic nose and lower jaw) presents Mark the opportunity to start a new training facility, he feels empowered and almost liberated. At du Pont’s massive estate, known as Foxcatcher farm, the two men develop a strange master slave relationship, one that relies on complete subservience from Mark against the iron fisted authority exercised by du Pont. But things don’t turn out so well and soon Dave is enlisted to help out, causing resentment between the brothers and friction with du Pont.

The film’s uniqueness comes from its deliberate style and rhythmic pacing. Dialogues are delivered slowly, with thoughtful pauses, while many scenes simply rely on our thoughts about the situation engaging and informing us. Miller’s masterstroke is never explaining motives and behaviour, knowing well that the kind of audience who actually choose to watch his films would not need to burrow so deep. This has the advantage of pulling us in and letting us get absorbed by the setup and the settings. He also extracts remarkable performances from his three leads and while Carell and Mark Ruffalo (as Dave) truly deserve all the praise they’ve been getting, Tatum is a revelation. His turn as the brooding yet inarticulate Mark is multifaceted yet central to everything else that happens and it’s a shame he isn’t being recognized nearly enough. Narratively, the films theme about brotherhood, companionship and one man’s mad, egotistical need to leave behind a legacy is intricately woven equally into what we see and hear and what is simply implied. The film may seem like it should be about something more, but it’s all there. Nothing is extraneous and nothing is missing.

Rating: ★★★★½

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and