Written by: E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
Based on Mark Schultz biography book
Stars: Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Steve Carell, Anthony Michael Hall, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Tara Subkoff, Brett Rice, Samara Lee, Roger Callard
Winter of 1996. An event is about to happen that will change lives of many people and especially the Schultz family – the murder of Dave Schultz – a much loved Olympic wrestler, the father to young Alexander. Dave Schultz is fixing his car radio on one of his affluent estates. A man pulls his car over saying: “You got a problem with me?” Suddenly he takes out a big gun and shoots at the American Olympic hero twice in the chest. He then sends one more bullet into his back to ensure that he is actually dead. This killing might seem senseless for anyone but the millionaire John du Pont, who commits this inexplicable crime against defenseless Dave Schultz.
The biopic “Foxcatcher” is based on a true story of a crime that has happened 18 years ago in the United States up to this day many people cannot find explanation to. This story told by the director Bennett Miller is based on Dave’s brother Mark Schultz’s biographical book. In addition, many people who have ever heard or remotely witnessed the event are still alive and have had an opportunity to re-tell their own version of the story. Thus, thanks to all those people and Mark Schultz, who wrote the book about his brother’s and his life, the story is picked up by Hollywood. And thus, we get a chance to see up close the life of the Schultz Brothers and their relationship with founder of “Foxcatcher” – John du Pont – a paranoid schizophrenic, who did not hesitate to commit such a horrible crime and get away with it.
As a person who is very familiar with this tragic story and has seen multiple documentaries about John du Pont and committed murder, there are several facts that I would like to bring to your attention. I paid particular attention to the screenplay – brilliantly written by Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, whose vision of the events is so clear, that leaves me with almost nothing to complain about. The writers describe John du Pont’s character in a way that I never expected. We see John du Pont, who at his old age still depends on his mother and event creates a wrestling team to satisfy her expectations. He invites the best wrestlers from all over the world to join the team, including Mark Schultz. He also hires his brother – Dave to be the coach of the team, which got a name Foxcatcher. The team brings a non-ending flow of medals and prizes and puts John du Pont on a pedestal, where he can finally see his mother Jean (Vanessa Redgrave) being proud of him- as never before.
Having directed Capote (biography, crime drama) and Moneyball (biography, sports), Bennett Miller certainly has a lot of experience working on screenplays based on true stories. Thus, one could assume that making his newest biopic “Foxcatcher” would have been less problematic for him. He skillfully handles the story and the actors who appear in his film; playing them the way he wants and introducing them to us – the viewers, in brilliantly believable characters, which simply leave us speechless. His portraying of a crazy man with access to a lot of weapons and nothing in his life but a demanding mother, who wants her over-40-year-old son to act the way he used to when he was 8, is simply unbelievable. Bennett Miller could successfully combine all the components for making the “Foxcatcher” a brilliant and compelling film that you have never seen before -a beautifully distilled script, excellent directing and a performance from the actors that you will certainly never forget.
When I first heard that the actor, widely known as Andy from “The 40 year-Old Virgin”, Even Baxter from “Evan Almighty” and Frank Ginsberg from “Miss Little Sunshine” was hired to play John Du Pont’s role, I could not believe my eyes. I seriously doubted that he was the right choice to embody an eccentric millionaire, the potentially dangerous and mentally ill John du Pont, as he mostly appears as comedian and entertainer on TV. This role definitely required other skills than that of a comedian. But, I have to say, that Steve Carell proved me wrong by delivering an absolutely shocking and truly masterful performance, bringing John du Pont to life exactly the way I imagined him – a totally unpredictable dangerous millionaire, who wanted to own the world and called himself “The Golden Eagle”. Carell’s delightful performance will inspire future actors and have future filmmakers study every single scene of his appearance in the role. If I could give an Oscar right now, I would definitely give it to him.
I would also like to mention two other actors who appear in “Foxcatcher” – Mark Ruffalo as Dave Schultz and Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz. Both of them leave impression with their mesmerizing performances. It is a delight to watch of them sharing screen together. Mark Ruffalo is always brilliant in any film he appears in, while Tatum has a long way to go to demonstrate his acting ability. I would say that role of Mark Schultz is a sweet beginning for a young actor, who now knows what direction to take in order to become a serious performer, who will only select certain roles to deliver his best performance. Before this happens, however, we will watch “Foxcatcher” over and over again to enjoy seeing Tatum’s excellent performance as Mark Schultz: Tatum definitely delivers the best performance of his career so far.
In conclusion, if you have ever heard the story of brothers Mark and Dave Schultz and their relationship with John du Pont, then you should expect from this film nothing, but a masterfully told story with logical consequences of an inexplicable event that occurs at one of the wealthiest mansions in the United States. This film is a very interesting journey into the past and is spiced with exceptional performance from the entire cast. They give us a close-up to the “Foxcatcher” and John du Pont, whose insanity is not easy to forget. The film is a true masterpiece and will take its due place in film history as one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema.