The sound of a single gunshot shook the city of Philadelphia this past Monday evening. While local residents sat safely in their homes, a packed house at the Prince Music Theater held their collective breath completely enamored with Bennett Miller's latest achievement, Foxcatcher. Miller's impeccable credentials speak for themselves. With two feature films under his belt, and both earning Best Picture nominations from the Academy Awards, Miller's Foxcatcher has all of the necessary ingredients for making it three in a row.
Channing Tatum takes center stage as Mark Schultz, a 1984 Olympic Gold Medalists in the sport of wrestling and someone who still manages to get lost in his older brother Dave's (Mark Ruffalo) shadow. But when a multi-millionaire named John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) invites Mark to move into his estate and lead a group of world-competitive wrestlers at his private Foxcatcher facility, Schultz graciously accepts and begins to branch out and form his own legacy. However, du Pont's powerful manipulation and stranglehold over Mark begins to escalate to the point where even peacemaker Dave Schultz can't stop an unfortunate tragedy from occurring.
Foxcatcher's cinematic prowess is evident on nearly every level imaginable. Bennett Miller's finely tuned and nuanced storytelling is a lost art in modern filmmaking. Subtlety is key, and the director carefully places every tiny detail in its necessary place in order to shape this spine-chilling tale of obsession and madness. Channing Tatum gives the performance of a lifetime in a role he seems destined to play. Standing toe-to-toe with his presumably Oscar-destined counterpart, Steve Carell, Tatum reveals a beautifully complex character. A physical beast with a burning desire for another Olympic Gold Medal and a young man determined to pave his own path in life, Mark Schultz is the last person you'd expect to be emotionally frail. Yet, Tatum captures this multi-dimensional character perfectly and, as a result, helps heighten an intentionally unbalanced and disturbing performance by Carell in a rare villainous role. Predatory and shrewd in nature, Carell's transformational role establishes du Pont's eerily reprehensible essence and, in many ways, carries Foxcatcher by itself.
In addition to a well-crafted story and a pair of superb leading performances, Foxcatcher rhythmically mounts an enormous amount of tension that builds like a symphony. Gradual and meticulous in its approach, what some may view as a slow-paced character study can also be described as a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. And when it finally does, your heart will burst out of your chest in one single instance. Similar in vibe to another slow-building and agonizing journey of impending doom with 2012's We Need to Talk About Kevin, Foxcatcher cloaks its rapacious themes with illusions of patriotism and grandeur. Everyone is in need of something, but as you sometimes come to discover in a real-life tragedy such as this, you must be careful what you wish for.
Foxcatcher is by no means a feel good story or a film you should seek out to enjoy, but rather a deeply insightful and provocative examination into one of our country's most perplexing crimes. Anyone fascinated by this national story is guaranteed to be utterly consumed from opening to closing credits. With Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller paints a perfect portrait of all his characters, an epic accomplishment that will undoubtedly stand as one of 2014's most prestigious films.