Foxcatcher catches you twice: first in the heart, then in the gut. Even before the ending, so brutally unbelievable that it can only be based on a true story, you have been emotionally pummelled for two hours. It goes without saying that the performances to support this are uniformly excellent. The film is essentially a three-part piece starring Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell, and each actor is simultaneously memorable and honest, never letting a character become a caricature. And while too often there is a focus on the actor who has made the greatest physical transformation, credit should go to both Steve Carell and his prosthetics department for creating a character that is like nothing he has done before.
As cinema, it undoubtedly just ‘works’. As a sports movie, which it isn’t really, it knocks several out of the park. As a psychological thriller, like Black Swan but for wrestling, it has the more sensitive souls, this reviewer included, sweating on the edge of their seats.
The film is also decidedly a slow-boiler, proceeding at that pace which Hollywood deems acceptable for ‘weighty movie’. Whether it completely lives up to the kind of movie it wants to be (it starts with the line "I am here to talk about America," and ends with a cut to black while a crowd chants "U.S.A.") is questionable. As a film about three people, rather than the state of a nation, it can feel as though the length was slightly padded to let people know the kind of experience they should expect. What they should expect, ultimately, is a drama played mostly underneath the surface, where the cumulative effect of what is not seen or said is what has the greatest impact.