Carell, like you've never seen him before
Foxcatcher Film Review
Slow-burning but strangely alluring, Foxcatcher is definitely a performance-based draw, which plays the long game, investing you in a character study of palpable authenticity.This based-on-a-true-story tale is more drama than thriller; a dark study of competition and obsession; and of simmering psychological issues brewing beneath the surface. It follows multimillionaire philanthropist, patriot and wrestling enthusiast John du Pont, who hunts down two Olympic wrestling champion brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz, with a view to getting them to join his private Olympic wrestling team. To begin with, he only secures the more vulnerable younger brother Mark, however, and although he initially proves himself to be something of a mentor and even friend to the brother, something is clearly not right. Foxcatcher is slow-burning through and through and, for many, that can be something of a turn-off. It's runtime blasts past the two hour mark telling a tale which clearly evolves very naturally over a period of years, but is nevertheless quite an epic voyage to 'endure' when, ostensibly, not a great deal happens during that period.Of course a great deal happens, but it's subtle and largely unspoken, reliant on nuanced performances and intricate character design to explore the darker underbelly of these troubled individuals. And it will undoubtedly change your opinion about just what comedian Steve Carrell is capable of. He’s a revelation in the commanding role of obsessive mentor John du Pont, bringing us dark and menacing undertones simmering beneath the surface of a supposedly devout benefactor. Channing Tatum also continues a run of surprisingly strong performances, as the first brother drawn into Team Foxcatcher; he’s long left behind the days where you dismissed him as just another Jai Courtney. And Mark Ruffalo puts in powerfully understated work as the older brother, almost stealing the show despite third billing. It’s worth watching for the performances of these three alone, although it'll take a more contemplative, patient mindset to fully appreciate what Foxcatcher truly has to offer.
Blu-ray Picture QualityFoxcatcher’s UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release trails Sony’s US equivalent by a couple of months, but looks to provide what appears to be the exact same 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition presentation, and carries with it the same flaws and flourishes.
Perhaps embracing the period feel, there’s a slightly soft edge which robs this of demo marks.
It’s a strong rendition, undoubtedly, with some fine attention paid in all the right areas, from skin textures to background nuances; from broad open landscapes to rich mahogany interiors. The main Du Pont residence is popping with intricacies, keenly juxtaposed against the more functional sparring suite, and the moody weather marries the sombre tones and palette, which eschews vibrant primaries in favour of a more restrained look. Black levels remain quite resilient – although far from perfect, betraying a smidge of crush with contrast which, again, suits the mood but doesn’t leave blacks as deep and rich as you’d hope for. And then there’s the rub; the style and period feel of the piece looks to have let in some minor niggles, amidst which is a hint of softness that appears to seep into some shots mid-scene, with faces that were – a second earlier – perfectly rendered suddenly taking on a slightly softer look. It’s far from a big concern, and certainly the look of the film marries up to the tone and time, but it’s enough to keep this from earning a demo score.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track often suffers from the sheer limitations of the material. Whilst there are some sweeping orchestral flurries, or more absorbing crowd-based tournament sequences, and whilst there are a couple of more punchy segments and a more intrusive, darker side to the score during the second half, overall this is a very minimalistically-designed audio track.
It’s a solid effort, again not demo quality, but also largely without problem.
Of course it’s the nature of the film, and works with the reserved tone established at the outset, with an almost documentary-style, pedestrian pace which comes with almost no aural coverage whatsoever, but it also doesn’t exactly lend itself towards showcasing your equipment. That’s not to say that the atmospherics aren’t well covered, with fine precision and balanced subtlety, the whole thing tipped as if it is ever building to what feels like some unstoppably cataclysmic implosion.
Blu-ray ExtrasNot exactly popping with extras, there’s a brief The Story of Foxcatcher, which manages to cover the basics of the project's inception, the true story, the cast and their performances, and the direction and scoring, all in little over a quarter of an hour, but, aside from that and a couple of Deleted Scenes and a few Previews, there’s nothing else on offer. A commentary would have been most welcome.
Foxcatcher Blu-ray VerdictPlaying the very long game, Foxcatcher demands patience and close observation from its audience, as it clinically, painstakingly paints a portrait of three disparate individuals who are drawn together by love and obsession, and torn apart by the very same things. Simmering with psychological understatement, it delivers three of the finest performances you've ever seen - and never expected - from Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.
Worth watching for the performances alone.
Its Region B-locked UK release boasts strong video and audio as well as a couple of nice extras, leaving this a decent purchase for fans and certainly a worthwhile rental, although you might want to test the waters first before you decide whether this is a keeper. Repeat viewings will undoubtedly be rewarding in this instance, but some may not have the patience to make it through first time around.
You can buy Foxcatcher on Blu-ray here
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