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

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29 thoughts on “Film Review: Foxcatcher

  1. Dan O. says:

    Good review. It’s maybe not quite the pick-me-up you’d want to watch, but it does feature some of the best performances from the past year.

  2. Mark Walker says:

    Couldn’t agree more on your thoughts here, Chris. Many didn’t take the pace but I thought it was brilliantly handled. Great performances too from Carell and Ruffalo but I also thought Tatum was excellent and there was no denying the sexual undertones yet many fail to mention them. I was starting to think that was just me 😉

  3. Stu says:

    Fully in agreement mate – it’s a very, very good film. Pace wasn’t an issue for me at all.

  4. Abbi says:

    I think if a movie is going to get away with a slow pace it has to have one hell of a pay off and Foxcatcher definitely wins with the pay off. It’s one of those films I can’t imagine watching twice but I am glad I watched it.

  5. Brittani says:

    Great review! It was pretty slow, but I enjoyed it very much. Great work from Carell, Ruffalo and Tatum.

  6. Yeah, the pace is a little glacial at times, but the performances are roundly great (Tattum is a surprise) and the mood of growing dread is oppressive. Fine fine work. Did you succeed in your cinema reviewer vote by the way?

  7. Great review. I appreciated the performances but overall I was terribly bored!

  8. ruth says:

    I like your quote highlights in your review Chris, nice touch. “Foxcatcher is a film that shouts the loudest during the very quietest of moments” I totally agree! I thought the interview scene w/ Ruffalo is perhaps one of the most memorable for me as it speak volumes that he could not find a single thing to say about DuPont. I appreciate this film but I don’t know if I love it, I’m glad I saw it but I probably won’t want to revisit this again.

    • Thanks Ruth, thought i’d try something a little different! That interview scene is fantastic, definitely one of the best in the whole film. I agree that I don’t need to see it again for a while although I’d be interested to see the special features on the Blu-ray.

  9. vinnieh says:

    Good review, still need to see this one. Thanks for the reminder man.

  10. sati says:

    Great review! This is not my Miller’s fav film but the performances were so good and I’m just so happy for Carell’s nomination, he really is tremendously talented

  11. V says:

    Great review. I still haven’t seen this yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.

  12. Tom says:

    We see eye-to-eye on this tremendously suffocating atmospheric piece Chris. Such a disturbing film and one of my favorites of last year. Great review here

  13. Beer Movie says:

    Nice review mate. I thought this was exceptional and I was blown away by all three of the performances. I don’t think Channing Tatum has gotten enough respect for his role. Even though it’s slow, this is a film I would like to see again. Just absorb that mood and bleakness again.

    • Thanks mate! You do really need to just absorb it, it just envelops you completely, loved it. I didn’t think much of Tatum when I first saw it but the more I’ve thought about it, the better his performance was for me.

  14. Brilliant review Chris. I can see why some might find this one too slow but I just love the atmosphere Miller creates. I feel a little sad for Carell that he lost out on the Oscar. He had some tough competition but I have a feeling his will be the performance I remember most vividly.

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