Film Review: Foxcatcher


Director Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is a subtle but incredibly effective film. Great performances and strong direction make for a memorable film.

Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz is asked to train at a new wrestling facility built on the estate of wealthy heir John du Pont. Training for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, John requests that Mark bring his brother, revered champion Dave Schultz, and the rest of the team to his estate where he acts as sponsor to the team…

Foxcatcher is a slow burner with a lasting after effect. Based on real events, the film is meticulous in its character development and build up. The narrative unfolds at a glacial pace, allowing the characters and set up to breathe. Character development in Foxcatcher is never rushed, a factor which allows the feeling of unease to grow.

The crux of Foxcatcher takes a while to develop; those unfamiliar with the story may not know quite where the film is heading for a good portion of the duration. The effect of Foxcatcher, particularly the climax, is that it stays in the mind long after the film has ended. The themes of dependence and control become more potent as the film continues.

Bennett Miller’s direction is strong, in both the action sequences and the character-driven scenes. The atmosphere generated in the film is pervasive. The unnerving feeling grows as the film progresses, thanks to Miller’s careful crafting. Foxcatcher’s  great score also adds to this atmosphere.

Steve Carell delivers a memorable performance as John du Pont; portraying the unease and instability of the character in a most convincing manner. Channing Tatum is decent as Mark Schultz, but it is Mark Ruffalo who really impresses in his supporting role.

Foxcatcher‘s dependence on character and mood really pays off. The end product is a film which will stay with viewers after the credits have rolled.

Foxcatcher was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2014.

Film Review: Moneyball

To some British folk, baseball is nothing more than a glorified game of rounders. Even to those of this mindset, Moneyball should prove to be an enjoyable movie.

Billy Beane is the general manager of Oakland Athletic. He struggles to compete with Oakland’s rivals, as there is little money to spend on new players. To gain an advantage, Billy must be creative. Meeting Peter Brand, Billy decides to use statistical data to analyse a player’s worth…

Moneyball works as a sports drama because it does not demand too much from its audience. The beauty of Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian’s screenplay is that it makes the concepts of the film understandable without feeling like it has been dumbed down. Even those with little knowledge or interest in baseball will be able to get into the film. Moreover, the data analysis aspect is depicted in enough detail for viewers to comprehend the strategy, without weighing the film down with unnecessary explanation. There could have been an issue with the amount of expository dialogue, but thankfully Sorkin and Zaillian handle this ably.

Director Bennett Miller paces the film rather well. Moneyball gets off to a bit of a slow start, but recovers well. At times, the film can be surprisingly gripping. Nevertheless, the film is not overly emotional. The film lacks the high drama so often pivotal to sports dramas. Audience are not required to make a strong emotional investment in Moneyball. Rather than this being wholly negative, it is actually refreshing to see a film of this kind not resort to theatrics in order to coerce the audience to feel something forced.

Part of the reason the film takes this attitude is undoubtedly down to the protagonist. Billy Beane is a character who appears quite normal, with few distinguishing features. The film focuses so much on his character, yet he is an ordinary guy, despite his ambitions. The supporting characters share his normality; there are no real outlandish types in Moneyball. The film retains a layer of authenticity throughout.

Brad Pitt offers a decent performance as Beane. There is nothing particularly powerful or memorable about his performance, however. Philip Seymour Hoffman is stronger as Art Howe, and Jonah Hill offers good support in his limited role. Kerris Dorsey is great as Beane’s daughter Casey, bringing life to their interactions.

Moneyball is slightly repetitive with its frequent driving sequences. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable rendition of real events that remains grounded.