My Top 10 Films of 2015

Obligatory end of year ‘best of’ alert!

So last year I did my top 20 films, but I’ve been proper rubbish with blogging this year so haven’t had chance to go into that much detail. As such, I’ll be keeping it to a top 10, which actually makes everything that bit tougher as I try and whittle them down.

As with last year, I’m including films that came out in the UK in 2015, even if they had a US release in 2014, and of course there are loads that I didn’t get round to seeing that may well have made the list, but that’s how it goes.

First, a few honorable mentions:

  • Spectre
  • The Gift
  • Ant-Man
  • Mr Holmes
  • Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
  • Crimson Peak
  • The Martian
  • Macbeth
  • The Walk

Without further ado…

10. Carol

Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara in Carol

Todd Hayne’s story of middle-aged Carol (Cate Blanchett) and her relationship with the younger Therese (Rooney Mara) is a lesson in nuance and subtlety. Just as much is conveyed in the touch of a hand or glance across the room as the entirety of lesser scripts. The cinematography is also a vital part of the machine, the whole 1950s’ aesthetic feeling like a hazy dream.

9. Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum & Steve Carell in FoxcatcherOne from right at the start of 2015, Foxcatcher is a real slow-burner. However, even though it crawls along, the three central performances, particularly that of Steve Carell as the creepy-as-hell John Du Pont, are mesmerising. Not one you’ll watch often, but Foxcatcher knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat whilst also keeping everything low-key.

Read my Foxcatcher review.

8. Sicario

Emily Blunt in SicarioFew films this year have been as tense as Sicario. The story may have been frustratingly vague (purposely so), but a series of fantastic set-pieces had me holding my breath and the trio of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro were all excellent.

7. Everest

Everest filmIt probably won’t show up on many people’s end of year lists but Everest really struck a chord with me. It might have been a little by the numbers and emotionally manipulative but few other films have left me thinking about them for days afterwards. Everest did.

6. Birdman

Michael Keaton & Edward Norton in BirdmanAnother from right at the start of the year. Birdman did the goods at the Oscars thanks to its clever one-shot formula, great cinematography, fantastic acting and layers upon layers of subtext. Some have taken against it, but it’s utterly bonkers and that’s why I think it’s brilliant.

Read my Birdman review.

5. Ex Machina

Alicia Vikander in Ex MachinaThe subject of artificial intelligence in films isn’t a new one, but, for me, Ex Machina is one of the most original films of 2015. It’s science fiction but feels like it’s not too far away from being science fact and consequently is really quite creepy. Oscar Isaacs’ Nathan is suitably disturbing and Alicia Vikander’s AI Ava is the most human of any of the characters.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

Charlize Theron as FuriosaAlmost everyone’s biggest surprise of the year. Mad Max: Fury Road was spectacular in almost every way, from the bombastic visuals and effects to the fact that Max himself very much took a backseat to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. I still maintain it’s a little light on story, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the year’s standout films.

Read my Mad Max: Fury Road review.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force AwakensAnd breathe. After all the hype and the waiting, it actually turned out to be really quite good. JJ Abrams had a gargantuan task on his hands but he played a blinder and made something that really felt like a Star Wars film. It did pay homage to (or downright copy) the original trilogy a little to much, and this bothered me more than it probably should, but it still made me grin from ear to ear throughout and that’s all I can ask it to do.

2. Whiplash

Miles Teller in WhiplashBreathless from start to finish. Whiplash is just a simply stunning piece of filmmaking. The sound, the acting, the editing, everything is just wonderful. Both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons go at it full throttle, with the last scene in particular a real assault on the senses.

Read my Whiplash review.

1. Inside Out

Emotions in Inside OutPixar are great, aren’t they? They rarely put a foot wrong, but with Inside Out they didn’t just make a fantastic film, but, as I explained in this post, an incredibly important one. The complexity of the themes on offer are ridiculous and will hopefully tap into a whole generation of young adults who are struggling with the emotions displayed in the film. A masterpiece.

That was tough. What do you reckon? How have I ballsed it up?

Why Inside Out is a masterpiece but won’t be remembered as one

Sadness, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Joy from Pixar's Inside Out

Pixar is yet to make a really bad film. Sure, it might have made a few missteps here and there (hello Cars 2) but even its below par offerings are far above the standard churned out by many other studios.

However, in this year’s Inside Out, the Disney-owned company created a film that is a bona fide masterpiece on practically every level. It’s just a shame that there’s a very good chance it won’t get remembered that way.

Why is Inside Out a masterpiece?

It’s almost impossible to define the term ‘masterpiece’ when it comes to films anyway, and there are very few that are unanimously accepted as such. Of Pixar’s back catalogue, only really Toy Story fits comfortably into the masterpiece category, although one could make the case for Monster’s Inc and Finding Nemo if you’re feeling generous.

And it’s the very thing that, for me, defines Toy Story as a masterpiece that runs through the heart of Inside Out – its ability to work as a film for adults as much as one for children. Now, we’re not just talking about jokes that go over the heads of innocent children, but entire themes that take on new meaning when viewed through the eyes of the older, more worldly wise generations.

Related – Quickie: Frozen

Toy Story enthralls children through the obvious – the thought of their toys coming to life and the madcap antics of Woody, Buzz, et al. However, viewed through the eyes of parents, you get a film that is about so much more; a film about nostalgia, your children growing up and their diminishing reliance on you as they get older. There’s a reason why the Toy Story films (and Toy Story 3 in particular) are known to reduce many an adult to tears.

Inside Out scratches this same itch as Toy Story (in fact, the similarities between the two films go deeper than that) and gives us two very different interpretations of the film depending on whether you’re an adult or a child. Children will giggle and gasp at Joy and Sadness’ adventures whilst Fear, Anger and Disgust provide further comic relief, but the real meat and potatoes for the adults comes from Riley.

Riley and her parents in Inside Out

Like Toy Story’s Andy, Riley might seem nothing but periphery but is actually key to the film’s success. For parents, Riley might as well be their own child and seeing her edge away from childhood as her emotions become more developed and complicated as they conflict and vie for prominence will no doubt ring true and, once again, cause a seeping of saline from many an eye.

The complexity with which Pixar has delivered Inside Out’s messages is quite something. It just gets how difficult it can be for many growing up from childhood to adolescence and sympathises with it. It’s saying that sadness is an essential part of being a balanced human being and that you can’t have joy without sadness, and for that reason it’s not just a brilliant film, but also an incredibly important one.

With child and teen suicide an ever-growing issue, something that explains, albeit in the form of a ‘children’s’ film, that these emotions are OK, nay perfectly normal, could literally be a lifesaver.

Why won’t Inside Out be remembered as a masterpiece

So, Inside Out ticks pretty much all the same boxes as Toy Story, and in many ways is a much deeper, more complex film, but something just tells me that it won’t be remembered with quite the same fondness. Granted, Toy Story has the advantage of being the first of Pixar’s films and therefore had that freshness and level of detail we weren’t really used to seeing at the time. It’s also had the luxury of time for its original audience to grow older and appreciate it through different stages of their lives.

Related – Film Review: Monsters University

Inside Out, however, just doesn’t feel like it has the same buzz. I mean, it’s done pretty well at the box office, pushing somewhere in the region of nearly $400,000,000, and it’s had near unanimous critical acclaim, but is it hitting the notes with the most important demographic? – children.

You still see children pretending to be Buzz Lightyear, and even characters such as Lightning McQueen or Mike Wazowski are well loved. Then we have Frozen (yes, that’s not Pixar, I know) which is a whole behemoth of its own. But are children really going to be running around pretending to be Joy, Sadness or the rest of the gang ? Are they going to be pestering their parents for Inside Out merchandise? Some might, most won’t.

Emotions in Inside Out

Of course, how much merchandise a film sells and the enthusiasm of children to act out film with their friends is no indication of a film’s quality whatsoever, but it is a sign of its popularity and of how likely it is to become a part of popular film culture in years to come.

Related – Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Children take films with them as they grow up and show them to their children and so on. Hopefully Inside Out is something today’s kids will revisit a little later in life and appreciate on a new level, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s resonated first time around.

There has been early talk of Inside Out scooping the Best Film Oscar next year, which would make it the first animated film to do so. Were it to do so then, in my eyes, it would be very well deserved, but I still don’t think that would seal it as masterpiece status outside of the cine-literate.

Ultimately, beauty is on the eye of the beholder and all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether Inside Out is a masterpiece, and personally I think it is one. Without a doubt. But in ten or fifteen years time I can’t see it being remembered as fondly as some of Disney or Pixar’s other works.

I really hope I’m wrong.

Quickie: Mr Holmes

Mr Holmes posterAn aged, retired Sherlock Holmes (Sir Ian McKellen) looks back on his life, and grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman.

Most iterations of Sherlock Holmes revolve around the great detective using all his cunning and guile to solve a labyrinthine mystery that would outwit most normal folk. Mr Holmes‘ focus, however, is less on the mystery and more on the man himself as he battles old age.

Through flashbacks, the film does involved a mystery of a woman apparently plotting to kill her husband, but this is nothing more than a Maguffin, and it’s Holmes’ struggle to recall these events that is of more interest. Those looking for an intriguing mystery may be a little disappointed, as there’s nothing that’s really going to have you on the edge of your seat, but the snapshot of an older Holmes is intriguing enough in itself.

Sir Ian is simply mesmerising as Holmes. From the way he holds himself and moves around to the way he breathes is so precise. Laura Linney hams it up a little as his housekeeper, but Milo Parker as her son Roger is superb, a real little Sherlock Holmes in the making.

Whilst it may be largely throwaway, Mr Holmes is an intriguing take on the character, and is a look at the loneliness that genius can bring with it as he battles perhaps his greatest foe yet, and one that he will ultimately not defeat – his own mortality.

3 and a half pigeons3.5/5 pigeons

Tagged , , , , , ,

Film Review: Whiplash

Miles Teller in Whiplash

Andrew Neimann (Miles Teller) is a promising young drummer who enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), an instructor who will stop at nothing to realise a student’s potential.

One of the key pieces of music in Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash is entitled ‘Caravan’, an exhausting jazz composition made up of breathless assaults of percussion punctuated by quieter moments leading to roaring crescendos that just leave you feeling worn out by the end. That’s Whiplash in a nutshell.

From the moment we fade in we’re bombarded with machine gunning drum solos from the clearly talented Andrew Neimann, and we’re also straight away introduced to the man who’s going to test Neimann both physically and mentally to his absolute limits.

Simmons is hugely intimidating, from the way he holds himself to the unflinching delivery and enunciation of every bile-spewing syllable.

The relationship between Neimann and orchestra conductor Terrence Fletcher is at the very centre of Whiplash and it’s an absolutely fascinating one. Foul-mouthed Fletcher is absolutely terrifying as he channels Full Metal Jacket’s Gunnery Sargeant Hartman in berating Neimann and his bandmates, and yet it’s hard to completely dislike him.

Whether he’s high-fiving a friend’s young daughter or playing piano in a jazz bar, there are glimpses of a softer side that keep him human, but there are also questions as to whether his unorthodox methods of motivation are actually warranted. Is it right to push someone so far if it gets results? Do the means justify the ends? It might not be as black and white as it first seems.

J.K Simmons and Miles Teller in Whiplash

Both Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are superb here. Teller’s physical performance is hugely impressive as he hammers away at the drum kit, whilst Simmons is hugely intimidating, from the way he holds himself to the unflinching delivery and enunciation of every bile-spewing syllable.

Others characters are largely window dressing and are of little to no consequence, which is one of the film’s few missteps. Neimann’s fleeting relationship with cinema worker Nicole (Melissa Benoist) is the worst offender, her character reduced to nothing more than a plot device by which to illustrate Neimann’s dedication to his drumming. Integrating the supporting characters into the story a little more could have added some depth.

A vital part of Whiplash’s effectiveness is down to Tom Cross’s quite wonderful editing; the frenetic cuts dictating the pace of the film and perfectly mirroring the aggression and tempo of not just the drumming but also Neimann and Fletcher’s dynamic with each other.

Whiplash’s premise is an incredibly simple one but its delivery is absolutely exceptional. It’s somewhat bare bones in terms of plot, but just watching Teller and Simmons butt heads so brutally is captivating and makes for a truly breathtaking experience. Very much my tempo.


  • Fantastic performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons
  • Brilliant editing helps dictate the pace of the film
  • Breathless drumming scenes


  • Weak supporting roles

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

Tagged , , , , ,

Film Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

In a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, two rebels just might be able to restore order: Max, a man of action and of few words, and Furiosa, a woman of action who is looking to make it back to her childhood homeland.

During grotesque warlord Immortan Joe’s chase of Max, Furiosa et al, one of the many, many vehicles is fronted by a blind bloke in a red jumpsuit playing a double-necked guitar that spews fire. For no apparent reason. And that pretty much sums up the absurdity of Mad Max: Fury Road.

They say never go back, but that’s exactly what director George Miller has done and there’s absolutely no signs whatsoever of him mellowing with age. Incredibly light on dialogue and exposition, Fury Road opts for retina-burning action instead, rarely giving you chance to catch your breath before the heavy metal soundtrack erupts and away we go again.

You feel sweaty and grimy, covered in dirt, sand and oil just watching it, and it feels great.

Its several action set pieces are visceral, brutal and simply spectacular, stunningly choreographed into a dance of death across the dystopian wastelands. Whilst undeniably impressive, the non-stop action does become a bit one-note and the film would benefit greatly from just taking the odd breather and fleshing out its characters a little more. Max himself feels woefully underdeveloped, and just giving us that little extra glimpse into who he is would have been welcome.

Charlize Theron as Furiosa

One of the main reasons the films works as well as it does is the aesthetic created by Miller and his cinematographer John Seale. Many post-apocalyptic films tend to have a rather washed out colour pallette but Fury Road is drenched in colour which just adds to the ludicrousness of the whole thing. And then there’s the vehicles and the noise and the make-up and bonkers editing – you feel sweaty and grimy, covered in dirt, sand and oil just watching it, and it feels great.

Whilst claims that Fury Road is some kind of visionary feminist masterpiece are somewhat wide of the mark, the film does do plenty to puts its men and women on much more equal footing than most other films of similar ilk.

For most of the film, this is Furiosa’s story, not Max’s – whether you want that is up to you.

You don’t need to look much further than Charlize Theron’s apocalyptic Ellen Ripley, Imperator Furiosa (Furiosa Road?), and her relationship with Max for proof of this. Furiosa enjoys just as much screen time as Max and we learn much more about her than Max’s Silverback grunts and gesturing ever give away. For most of the film, this is her story, not his – whether you want that is up to you.

At times Max does feel a little sidelined and this does bring about some issues, not because he has the right to be front and centre at all times, but because here we have a main character that, often, you struggle to really become invested in. Those who have seen the original Mad Max films may fare better here, but for those new to the series, there’s a good chance you won’t actually care that much about Max.

Whilst Fury Road is hardly the modern day classic some are labelling it as, it’s hard to beat when it comes to adrenaline-fuelled, fire guitar-wielding action. Its sheer vision and extravagance are to be applauded, and whilst a little more plot/character development wouldn’t have gone amiss, it’s a tremendous way to hopefully kickstart a new era in the Mad Max franchise.


  • Amazing action set pieces
  • Strong female lead in Charlize Theron’s Furiosa
  • Wonderful aesthetic and lore


  • Becomes too action-heavy
  • Could have done with more character and plot development

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

Tagged , , , , , , ,

What is… Aspect Ratio?

I haven’t written one of these posts for quite some time so I thought it about time to put that right. Always wondered what aspect ratio is? Here’s your answer…

Aspect ratio is the relationship between the width and height of the image on screen. It is represented by two numbers separated by a colon – the first number is the width of the screen, the second is the height. An example is 4:3, where for every 4 inches (or centimetres or whatever) wide an image was, it would be 3 inches high.

You may also see 4:3 written as 1.33:1, which is just purely stylistic. If the second number is a ‘1’ then some people like to drop it completely, so it would just be 1.33, again just for stylistic reasons.


When films first started to be made, they were done so in the above ratio, 4:3, as they were 4 perforations high on a film reel. This altered slightly when sound was introduced onto the reel, making the ratio 1.37:1 rather than 1.33:1. In 1932, this ratio was officially approved by the The Academy, and therefore pretty much the whole of popular film making, and thus was known as the Academy Ratio.

In this famous clip from Casablanca you’ll notice the black bars on either side of the frame, a feature of 4:3 aspect ratio.

The Introduction of Widescreen

Cinema was the be all and end all until televisions started to become a more staple fixture in people’s homes in the 1950s. This made the film studios nervous and they looked for something new to keep the punters coming in.

1952 saw the development of Cinerama which used an aspect ratio of 2.59:1 and need three cameras and three projectors to display the picture on a curved screen. As you might imagine, this wasn’t particularly practical. CinemaScope was another widescreen development with a slightly more narrow 2.35:1 and used only the single camera and projector.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was filmed in widescreen 2.2:1 – you can see the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen rather than the sides.

When widescreen films were shown on TV (which back then was 4:3 only), the picture either had to be chopped at the sides or squashed down to fit it all in, the latter producing big black bars at the top and bottom, known as letterboxing. Interestingly, when 2001 was first screened on TV by the BBC in the 1980s, they bizarrely inserted fake ‘stars’ on the black bars to fill in the gaps during the outer space sections as they thought audiences would be confused that the picture didn’t fill the whole screen. The effect was apparently very cheap and looked like someone had painted them on.

A technique was also developed called ‘pan and scan’ in which the manufacturer decided which was the most important part of each shot and showed only that, lopping off parts either side. A ‘centre cut’ was also sometimes used, which only showed the middle part of the widescreen image.

Studios started to try and push what they could do, with MGM using 2.76:1 on 70mm film (twice the size of the regular 35mm film) for Ben Hur.

Getting creative

As with many aspects of cinema, directors decided to manipulate aspect ratio for stylistic purposes and used it as a vital part of the film. One of the most recent and effective examples of this is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest HotelAnderson presented the film in three different aspect ratios, each indicating a different time period.

The film starts off with a prologue displayed in the, now regular, 1.85:1.

Tom Wilkinson in The Grand Budapest Hotel For scenes in the 1960s, Anderson then shifts the aspect ratio to a widescreen format of 2.35:1

F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law in The Grand Budapest Hotel

It then changes again to the Academy Ratio of 1.37:1, and it’s in this ratio that most of the film is displayed.


Interestingly, the change in aspect ratio indicates a journey back in time through cinema, moving from modern day back to how films used to be shown back in the day. Not that I’m old enough to remember that. Even more interesting is that Anderson (or perhaps the studio, or both) actually sent a set of instructions to cinemas about how to properly display the film.

A list of instructions from Wes Anderson about how to properly show The Grand Budapest HotelThe change and use of aspect ratios is something that is constantly in flux. The use of IMAX has changed this again, especially when certain scenes in a film are filmed in the format and other aren’t, with it switching part way through. Some filmmakers for both cinema and TV also employ what’s known as ‘shoot and protect’ where they ensure the most important parts of the scene are shot in the middle so that as little as possible is lost should the aspect ratio not convert to different size screens – from cinema to TV, for instance.

Do you have any opinions on aspect ratio? Prefer one over another? Couldn’t give a flying film reel? Drop me a comment and let me know. If you want to read more in the ‘What is…?’ series, click here.

Tagged , , ,

Sunday Soundtrack: Be My Baby (The Ronettes)

Be My Baby by The Ronettes featured in the opening credits of Martin Scorsese’s brilliant Mean Streets. Many might actually know it for its use in Dirty Dancing but Mean Streets is better, so there.

If you have any suggestions for future Sunday Soundtracks, leave them in the comments below.

5 Films That Have Better Sex Scenes Than Fifty Shades of Grey

Things are getting a little steamy here with this guest post from my good pal Ruth from the really rather good Crown Rules. Discussion and videos here are of a very adult nature so if you’re a child or prefer to veer away from such talk, heed the warning! If you like a bit of the ol’ slap and tickle, however, do read on…

With a teaser trailer that looked like the world’s weirdest adverts for ties and a novel based on a teen series of Vampire books, Fifty Shades of Grey was never going to win me over. Since the film’s release on Valentine’s Day this year the overwhelming response to the ‘sex’ in it is that the two co-stars have zero on screen sizzle and the woman’s orgasm was, once again, omitted. Being a big fan of female pleasure (particularly my own) I thought it would be helpful for viewers to be exposed to a list of films that got sex scenes totally right. These scenes will leave you flustered, grabbing the sheets and enjoying a bit more ‘me time’ than usual. Let’s take a look at 5 Films That Have Better Sex Scenes than Fifty Shades of Grey and revel in their ecstasy.

Blue Valentine


The utter lad that is Ryan Gosling kicked off when Blue Valentine was going to be released without the now infamous oral sex scene. He was outraged that the film was going to receive an adult rating (in America) just because it showed a woman enjoying oral sex. It baffles me just as much as it baffles Gosling that this is still seen as something women should be ashamed of. The clitoris’s only function is pleasure – that is literally all it is – a load of nerve endings. Got an issue with that? Take it up with The Gosling Committee for The Female Orgasm, I’m pretty sure he’s responsible for a few of them anyway.

Young Adult

Charlize Theron in Young Adult

‘Better’ in the context of this post, doesn’t necessarily mean ‘sexier’ and Young Adult is a glowing example of this. This sex scene is realistic. It’s cringe-worthy accurate. I think the scene officially had me when Theron takes off her all-in-one dress and reveals her completely strapless bra. Those bad boys just wiggle there as she tries not to cry. That moment is so tender that it almost made me forget about the great sex scene that followed with Patton Oswalt. It’s raw, vulnerable and a little bit too familiar, what a great bit of film making.


This is the Mr Grey you want to be watching. James Spader is a naughty, naughty man in this film and Gyllenhaal needs to stop being so Maggie the whole damn time. They’re so good together it’s like a lesson in on screen chemistry. Never has the pencil skirt been worn better and never has a Lawyer been more intolerable, both of which are big claims to fame. You’ll never hear the lines “Just one scoop of cream potatoes, a slice of butter and four peas” the same way again. Who knew such ordinary food could be made so extraordinary with the power of the female orgasm?

Y Tu Mamá También

The Oscar nominated Spanish film, Y Tu Mamá También, won lots of acclaim for its presentation of sex between two young men and a much older woman. I’ve got a soft spot of Gael García Bernal so anything that has him in it naked for 90% of the film is going to win me over. From the pool diving board masturbation scene to the steamy back car scene this film has sex in many forms, however, it’s the sex that changes the boy’s relationship that really stole my attention. They both kiss in a heated moment and it changes their friendship into something neither is comfortable to recognise. It’s a beautiful moment and something that should be looked at more in sex scenes; the changing moment, the catalyst for something new.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Apparently, if you want to portray sex realistically then it helps to have blue in the title. Blue is the Warmest Colour is an honest representation of a gay female relationship and the intensity that comes from your first flush of a new experience. Released only last year this film heralds a new approach to sexual representation in film. Too often gay female relationships are portrayed for a male audience, but in Blue is The Warmest Colour it feels as though a new level of honesty is achieved. It’s a film about finding yourself and discovering what it is you like and love. This is something that is symbolically shared with Fifty Shades of Grey, however, it is Blue is The Warmest Colour that shows the beating heart of this decision making.

Ruth Hartnoll is a full time copywriter, part time queen at and obsessive theatre & poetry enthusiast. She adores animated characters, particularly female, and encourages all women and girls to go and to have lots of naughty fun – if the boys are doing it, we can do it better. Adventure is out there! Follow Ruth on Twitter here and check out her previous article on 7 of her favourite animated female characters.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Film Review: Foxcatcher

Channing Tatum & Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Champion wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont (Steve Carrell) as he trains for the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

Olympic wrestling (not the uber camp scripted stuff) probably isn’t the most glamorous of sports in all honesty. Two men in big baby-grows and weird helmets rolling around on the floor whilst no-one is really sure of the rules isn’t exactly riveting stuff, which makes it all the more amazing just how absorbing Foxcatcher is.

But of course Foxcatcher isn’t really about wrestling. Naturally there are wrestling scenes dotted throughout the film, and some of them are superbly done, but the actual wrestling very much takes a back seat. Instead it’s the relationship between Mark and Du Pont and to a slightly lesser degree Mark’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) that is the main focus.

Foxcatcher is a film that shouts the loudest during the very quietest of moments

This gives the film a much slower pace then it might otherwise have; so slow in fact that it might turn some people off to it, but it’s a film that shouts loudest during the very quietest of moments. Director Bennett Miller keeps everything very methodical and purposeful, rarely breaking out of walking pace, yet creating something wholly absorbing.

Much of this is down to the wonderful performance of Steve Carell as the creepy, menacing John Du Pont who, whilst being almost entirely deplorable, you just want to see more of and is totally engrossing when on screen. Everything about his demeanour is unsettling, from the way he walks to how he holds himself in conversation to how clearly uneasy he is around other people.

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Carell does, however, inject just enough vulnerability into the character, stopping him from becoming too one-note. The constant search for validation and acceptance from all those around him actually make Du Pont, at times, more accessible than his chilly exterior first allows.

Mark Ruffalo is also excellent as Dave Schultz, showing the caring and attentiveness Du Pont could only dream of from a member of his family, whilst Channing Tatum does what needs to be done but rarely anything more. Tatum gives us occasional glimpses of a more nuanced character, but is largely just a canvas on which Carell can work.

Mention should also go to Greig Fraser’s cinematography which is mercilessly foreboding and chilly with even the odd horror film inflection thrown in every now and again.

The story of Schultz and Du Pont is an odd one, and much has been made of the accuracy of the film in depicting the real-life events, largely by Mark Schultz himself. The homoerotic undertones may be disputed by Schultz but they’re subtle enough to add an extra layer of intrigue to the story and depth to the characters.

Whilst wrestling might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Foxcatcher is about so much more than that, and the central performances ensure an absorbing watch from start to finish regardless of your interest in the actual subject matter.


  • Brilliant performance by Steve Carell
  • Strong performance from Mark Ruffalo
  • Hugely effective cinematography


  • A little slow paced at times

4 and a half pigeons

4.5/5 pigeons

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

I Could Do With Your Help


Hello lovely film fans – I could do with your help.

I have the chance to become a film reviewer for Vue Cinemas. British readers will know who that is, but for those in other countries Vue is one of the largest cinema chains in the country.

I have reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service along with a load of other people and the person whose review gets the most votes becomes a reviewer for Vue.

Here is the like where you can vote for me –

For the few people searching for Terry Malloy, my name is actually Chris Thomson and you’ll see my lovely face on there too. I know this is a bit rich considering I’ve not been round many people’s blogs for a while, but it would mean a lot if you could vote for me. You can do so via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

If you do give me a vote and I go onto win then I’ll personally thank you on here in a post and link through to your blog.

Let’s show those other reviewing upstarts the power of us bloggers. Or something. Please get friends and family to vote as well if you’d be so kind, that’d be amazing!

Anyway, thanks very much in advance, really appreciate it!