Tag Archive: Mark Ruffalo


Spotlight – Movie Review

The investigative thriller is a great subgenre that doesn’t receive the attention that it deserves. Part of the reason for this might be because these films work best when they’re based on a true story. Probably the greatest film that falls into this category is 1976’s All the Presidents Men. That film looked at how the Washington Post investigated the Watergate Scandal and it continues to shed new light on a topic that is taught in history classes across the country. Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight feels like the modern day equivalent to that film. It’s portrayal of how the Boston Globe uncovered the Catholic priest child molestation scandal is truly engaging and also devastatingly realistic. It’s definitely one of the year’s best films, but it’s also a film that covers such dark subject matter that it feels like it takes a piece out of you.

The year is 2001 and the Spotlight section of the Boston Globe is working on a case to expose some form of corruption with the Boston Police Department. The team is led by veteran reporter Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) who is welcoming in Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber) the newspaper’s new editor. When a piece of information arises that implicates a Catholic priest in a charge of child molestation, Baron encourages the paper to investigate this piece of information. Most of the reporters at the paper are initially skeptical of pursuing this route because they don’t want to offend their mostly Catholic subscribers. But as they continue to dig up more information, the reporters of Spotlight soon begin to realize that they’ve stumbled onto one of the largest scandals of the 21st century.

Two hours of investigative reporting might not sound like exciting cinema, but Spotlight moves forward at a propulsive pace that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. The film covers some heavy material and you become absolutely invested in these reporters discovering the truth. It’s shocking to think that something so horrible was going on for such a long period of time, but there were plenty of institutions who helped bury the truth. It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to keep a secret this big and organizations all over Boston helped keep the truth under wraps. It’s people like the reporters at the Boston Globe that keep these institutions in check.

And the cast successfully brings all of these reporters to life. Michael Keaton is nothing short of fantastic in his role as Walter Robinson. From his mannerisms to his subtle Boston accent, Keaton nails every nuance of Robinson and delivers a performance that is sure to score him his second Oscar nomination in two years. Rachel McAdams shines as Sacha Pfeiffer, particularly in the relationship that she shares with her grandmother. Pfeiffer’s grandmother is a devout Catholic and it’s really interesting to see how their relationship changes throughout the film. Brian d’Arcy James might not be an A-lister like the rest of the cast, but he more than holds his own as reporter Matt Carroll. The highlight for his character occurs when he discovers that a rehabilitation center for abusive priests is located only a few houses down from his own. Liev Schreiber also stands out as the Globe’s new editor, as does Stanley Tucci as short-fused lawyer Mitchell Garabedian. If there’s a weak spot in the cast, it’s unfortunately Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo’s a great actor, but his Boston accent feels forced and sticks out in a bad way.

By the time Spotlight reaches its conclusion, you really feel like you’ve experienced the incredible amount of effort that went towards this story. And the final seconds of the film are absolutely phenomenal, ending off on a truly dark note that will have audiences shaking as they leave the theater. People may tell you that this is an important film and while that sounds cliché, it’s absolutely true. When we read about stories like this one in the paper, we rarely hear about the extensive amount of reporting and research that brought out the truth. You may think you know the story, but Spotlight places this scandal in a whole new light.

Spotlight receives 4/4

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Nothing lasts forever. When Iron Man kicked off the Marvel cinematic universe in 2008, audiences had no idea how much of a phenomenon these movies would become. But 2012’s The Avengers was a massive hit, becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time and earning rave reviews from both critics and fans alike. Since then, many have been wondering how long this superhero craze will be able to sustain itself. If Avengers: Age of Ultron is any indication, it won’t be able to last much longer. Writer/director Joss Whedon’s second entry into the Marvel cinematic universe is completely serviceable, but lacks the pure joy and excitement that the original Avengers was able to muster. There’s just too much going on and watching it feels like an endurance test rather than an exhilarating summer spectacle.

The film opens with our favorite group of Marvel superheroes raiding a snowy Hydra military base. Inside are Loki’s scepter and Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), a brother and sister who each have superpowers of their own. The Avengers successfully take back the scepter, but the two siblings escape. Returning to their base headquarters, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) enlists the help of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in creating an artificial intelligence that can protect Earth from any more otherworldly threats. But the experiments go horribly wrong and an evil, sentient android named Ultron (James Spader) is created. Ultron says that he wants to bring peace to the world, but he plans on doing so by wiping out the entire human race.

Three years ago, I was surprised that Whedon was able to successfully juggle so many different characters and plotlines in The Avengers. If Whedon made that film look effortless, this time around he’s juggling way too many balls. Age of Ultron has too many characters trying to do too many different things and it never feels like it builds to a cohesive whole. The idea to include so many different characters was likely a decision made by the executives at Marvel and only some of them feel like they deserve to be here. Scarlet Witch is an intriguing new character and it’s always a joy to see Elizabeth Olsen onscreen, but it’s the film’s primary antagonist who is the most interesting new character. Ultron is played superbly by James Spader, whose distinct voice perfectly fits the charismatic and menacing villain. He’s a force to be reckoned with and the reasons that he gives for his evil plan actually make some semblance of sense. Quicksilver is a pretty underwhelming new character, mostly due to the fact that he was portrayed much more interestingly in X-Men: Days of Future Past. But the character that feels really shoehorned into the film is Vision, who only shows up in the last half hour and then doesn’t do anything interesting or memorable with the time he’s given. There’s way too much going on in this film, but his character is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The film starts on a strong enough note, but the pacing hits a brick wall in the second act. After a mission goes wrong, The Avengers take refuge in a safe house and then nothing interesting happens for a solid 30-45 minutes. It also doesn’t help that several of the characters choose to split up and do their own thing. These departures feel rushed and it feels like nothing important develops out of them. These films work best when the entire team is working together, so it’s a strange decision to split them up. This also feels like the longest portion of the film, dragging on for such a long period of time that when the final battle began to occur, I was already wondering when the film would be over. Contrast that with the nice buildup and incredible third act of the original Avengers and you can see that this entry is really lacking the special something that made the first film such an event. The first film was filled with tons of standout moments and this film only has a few moments that are able to come close to how incredible those original moments felt.

But even if there are not a lot of memorable moments, the few moments that are worth talking about are pretty cool. When The Hulk is wreaking havoc on a populated African city, Iron Man enlists the help of a new Hulk-sized suit to calm the big green guy down. The battle that rages between them is very exciting and unlike pretty much anything this series has offered before. The final climactic battle also offers some fun action, particularly in a shot that showcases all of The Avengers battling Ultron’s army side –by-side. The humor may not be as memorable as the first time around, but Whedon still has a knack for writing fun, clever dialogue. Surprisingly, one of the best moments in the film isn’t even an action sequence, but a fun scene involving every Avenger attempting to pick up Thor’s hammer.

It’s impossible to deny that Avengers: Age of Ultron is a disappointment, but that’s only because the first film was such a surprising moviegoing event. I didn’t expect the sequel to match the heights of the original, but I would have hoped for it to be more coherent and cohesive than it ended up being. Still, this is a decent entry into the Marvel cinematic universe, albeit a totally uninspired one. The film may be a mess, but I shudder to think of how much bigger the mess could have been if Joss Whedon wasn’t behind the camera. The first Avengers film showed you how to feel like a kid again. This one just makes you feel like a cynical adult.

Avengers: Age of Ultron receives 2.5/4

My Oscars 2015

The 87th Academy Awards are taking place this Sunday and it’s easily the biggest night of the year that Hollywood has to offer. Some great talent is sure to be honored, but I’m also sure that the Academy will fail to honor some of the more worthy individuals. Since I am not a member of the Academy and can’t actually choose who gets to take home the gold on Sunday, I decided to create my own awards. They may not be quite as prestigious as the Oscars, but maybe some of this year’s nominees will appreciate the praise that I’m giving them. Agree with my choices? What categories would you do differently? Let me know in the comments below!

Best Director

Damien Chazelle – Whiplash

David Fincher – Gone Girl

Richard Linklater – Boyhood

Bennett Miller – Foxcatcher

Denis Villeneuve – Enemy

Best Actor

Steve Carell – Foxcatcher

Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

Tom Hardy – Locke

Michael Keaton – Birdman

Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Scarlett Johannson – Under the Skin

Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything

Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon – Wild

Shailene Woodley – The Fault in our Stars

Best Supporting Actor

Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler

Ethan Hawke – Boyhood

Edward Norton – Birdman

Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

Carrie Coon – Gone Girl

Rene Russo – Nightcrawler

Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

Naomi Watts – Birdman

Best Original Screenplay

Calvary – John Michael McDonagh

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness

Locke – Steven Knight

Nightcrawler – Dan Gilroy

Whiplash – Damien Chazelle

Best Adapted Screenplay

Enemy – Javier Gullón

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Inherent Vice – Paul Thomas Anderson

Under the Skin – Walter Campbell and Jonathan Glazer

Wild – Nick Hornby

Best Cinematography

Birdman – Emmanuel Lubezki

Enemy – Nicolas Bolduc

Foxcatcher – Greig Fraser

Gone Girl – Jeff Cronenweth

Interstellar – Hoyte Van Hoytema

Best Original Score

Enemy – Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans

Godzilla – Alexandre Desplat

Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Interstellar – Hans Zimmer

The Theory of Everything – Jóhann Jóhannsson

Best Original Song

“Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie

“Glory” from Selma

“I’ll get you what you Want (Cockatoo in Malibu)” from Muppets Most Wanted

“Split the Difference” from Boyhood

“Yellow Flicker Beat” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

 

Best Editing

Boyhood – Sandra Adair

Gone Girl – Kirk Baxter

Interstellar – Lee Smith

The Raid 2 – Gareth Evans

Whiplash – Tom Cross

Best Production Design

Exodus: Gods and Kings – Arthur Max

Foxcatcher – Jess Gonchor

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Adam Stockhausen

Interstellar – Nathan Crowley

Snowpiercer – Ondrej Nekvasil

Best Sound

The Babadook – Frank Lipson

Edge of Tomorrow – James Boyle and Dominic Gibbs

Fury – Paul N.J. Ottosson

Godzilla – Erik Aadahl, David Alvarez and Ethan Van der Ryn

Interstellar – Gary Rizzo, Gregg Landaker, Mark Weingarten and Richard King

Best Visual Effects

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Edge of Tomorrow

Godzilla

Guardians of the Galaxy

Interstellar

My Top Ten Films of 2014

Best of 2014

Honorable Mentions (In Alphabetical Order): 22 Jump Street, Calvary, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, John Wick, The Lego Movie, The One I Love, The Raid 2, Under the Skin, X-Men Days of Future Past

  1. The Guest – Any of my honorable mentions could have made their way into my number 10 slot, but I ended up choosing Adam Wingard’s hugely satisfying thriller, The Guest. It’s a story about a naïve family who open up their home to a total stranger, only to discover that this man is not as innocent as he seems. Like Wingard’s past efforts, it’s nothing more than a genre exercise, but it’s one that feels uniquely fresh and entertaining. With great performances, slick action and an awesome soundtrack, The Guest feels like a throwback to some of the more ridiculous action films of the 80s, while also managing to mix in its own modern sensibilities.
  1. LockeLocke is 85 minutes of Tom Hardy driving a car and talking on a phone. That’s it. Writer/director Steven Knight has somehow taken a gimmicky premise and used it to provide a wholly realized portrait of man who is simply trying to make the right decisions in his life. The character of Locke is forced to deal with the complications of a concrete pour, while also recovering from the confession of his infidelity to his wife. Attempting to supervise a concrete pour over the phone may not sound exciting and when the movie first begins, it isn’t. But as we begin to learn more about who Locke is and why he’s choosing to make these decisions, every aspect of his life becomes more and more fascinating. This is really a film that gets better and better as the film progresses and it’s all because of the slow development of Locke’s character and Tom Hardy’s incredible performance. Locke is a simple story, told in a unique and daring fashion.
  1. Fury – A profile of five men operating a tank in the European Theater of WWII, Fury is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. The action sequences are intense, well-directed and manage to separate themselves from the pack of other WWII movies with their focus on tank warfare. The film is bloody, brutal and none of the characters ever feel safe from the onslaught of enemy fire. A sequence that pits four American tanks against a superior German tank is shocking and exciting, as is the climactic standoff where our squad must battle an entire battalion of SS Nazi soldiers. But the action is worthless if you don’t care about the characters, so director David Ayer makes sure that each tank member has a distinctive personality. A highlight of the film is an extended sequence where Brad Pitt and Logan Lerman’s characters play house with two young German women. It’s a break in the action, but it goes to show how desperate these men are to receive some semblance of normalcy within the consistent chaos that they’re exposed to day after day. By making the war seem legitimately scary, Fury earns its place alongside all the great WWII movies.
  1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny that Wes Anderson has developed a style that’s uniquely his own. With The Grand Budapest Hotel, he’s crafted his most beautiful looking film. Thanks to incredible set direction and production design, practically every frame of the film is a visual wonder. You could watch it with the sound off and still be entertained, but then you would be missing out on the engaging story and sharp dialogue that add another layer of beauty to the film. Aided by a great cast, Anderson has crafted a hugely entertaining tale that works as a remembrance for passed down stories and an affinity for days gone by. Viewers willing to check into this film are sure to enjoy their stay.
  1. Enemy – A surreal and provocative mindbender that’s as frightening as any horror film released this year, Enemy is an intricately plotted thriller that demands multiple viewings. From the opening shot to the final frame, it’s a film that will hold its viewers in a near constant state of suspense. Director Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up to last year’s Prisoners proves that he’s a master at holding viewers on the edge. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a great two-sided performance and the grim cinematography from Nicolas Bolduc effectively provides the feeling that something just isn’t quite right in this world. Speaking of things not being quite right, the ending is a real shocker that ranks up there with the best of this year. Viewers accustomed to having every plot detail spoon fed to them should look elsewhere; this is a film that will lead to questions, interpretations and conversations. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of cinema.
  1. Boyhood – Shot intermittently from May 2002 to October 2013, Boyhood chronicles the life of a young boy named Mason from ages 6 to 18. It’s an incredible production story, but the film transcends this potential gimmick with fully realized characters, heartfelt moments and interesting themes that most coming of age films don’t even attempt to tackle. Never before has a film so expertly captured what it’s like to live in the 21st century. Everything from the clothes, to the hairstyles, to the vernacular feels authentic with the time period because each scene was filmed in its respective year. Decades from now, people will look back on this film as an authentic snapshot of life in the early 21st century. The amount of things that could have gone wrong with director Richard Linklater’s ambitious project are endless, but somehow everything came together to create a true piece of art that is as beautiful and moving as any motion picture can be. Linklater’s naturalistic direction keeps things poetically simple and eleven years of footage leads to an ending that is breathtaking in how it says so much by saying so little. This is surely one of the most realistic films ever made, but it’s also one of the most magical. I’ve never seen anything quite like Boyhood.
  1. Gone Girl – Adapated from Gillian Flynn’s entertaining page-turner of the same name, Gone Girl is a harrowing mystery that’s engrossing from start to finish. Fans of the source material will be pleased at the faithfulness of this adaptation, while new viewers will be absolutely floored by some of the twists and turns that this movie takes. Not only is it a great thriller, but it’s also a great satire of modern relationships and marriages. The extreme, heightened scenario that these characters are placed in may be rare, but the actions that they take while in this strange scenario are simply exaggerations of what many people do while in a marriage. Couples lie to each other, pretend to be someone else and struggle for power. These characters are written as hyperbolic exaggerations for a reason. Director David Fincher once again proves that he’s a master behind the camera, crafting a film that never lets up throughout its extended runtime. Not only does it rank right up there with his best work, but it’s also one of the most wholly satisfying thrillers to come out in years.
  1. Nightcrawler – A brilliant satire of modern news and the cutthroat business world, Nightcrawler is a startlingly accomplished directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers the best performance of 2013 and crafts a totally unique and interesting character in the process. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a total sociopath, willing to put anybody into danger as long as it will get him further ahead. He wants to achieve success and he absolutely does not care how he gets there. Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role and Bloom’s gaunt physique and long hair only add to his uncomfortable persona. The script by Gilroy also offers plenty of dark humor that may catch some viewers off guard. Gyllenhaal’s character is so loathsome that you almost have to laugh at all of the horrible acts he’s willing to commit. All of these acts culminate in a fantastically directed final action sequence, one that continues to shock even after you think it could go no further. It’s a film that’s full of surprises and feels like a breath of fresh air in the occasionally mundane cinematic landscape.
  1. Foxcatcher – If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. Here is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. In his best film to date, director Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. Miller is aided by a fascinating script and three transformative performances from Channing Tatum, Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s performance as the wealthy John du Pont is a true standout and the character that he embodies lingers long after the film has ended. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art that is nothing short of astounding.
  1. Whiplash – Sometimes the best thing about movies is their ability to surprise you. Before I saw Whiplash, I would have never imagined that it would end up being my favorite film of 2014. Now, over two months since I originally saw it, my love for the film has only continued to grow. This tale of a maniacal jazz conductor and the young student that he chooses to inflict his wrath upon is intense and undeniably powerful. This isn’t a heartfelt story of a teacher encouraging a student to do his best; it’s a story of a harmful relationship between an abuser and an abusee. Director Damien Chazelle’s directing is tight and spot-on, while his script smartly explores the idea of wanting to achieve something regardless of the cost. Miles Teller delivers an extremely physical performance as we watch him bang on the drum set until his hands are bloody, while J.K. Simmons creates one of the most vicious, ruthless, disturbing and downright evil characters to appear in a movie in quite some time. All of this builds to a final sequence that is equal parts shocking and exhilarating. Just as the film appears to veer towards a fairly obvious ending, the rug is pulled out from underneath us with a truly surprising reveal. Chazelle manages to find an ending that is neither completely uplifting nor completely upsetting and entirely avoids the schmaltz that is typically associated with similar films. It’s more frightening that any horror film I’ve seen in years and one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences that I’ve ever had. With taut direction, amazing performances and an infectiously toe-tapping jazz soundtrack, this is sure to blow away your expectations, just like it did mine. Whiplash is, without a doubt, the best film of the year.

Foxcatcher – Movie Review

If you’re looking for a feel-good film to boost your spirits and morale, then I must warn you to stay far, far away from Foxcatcher. While this is technically a sports film, it doesn’t contain any of the hope, cheer or victory that is usually synonymous with the genre. This is a sports film with all of the happiness sucked out of it, which is then replaced by an ever mounting sense of dread and scenarios so disturbing that they’re borderline horror movie territory. But what makes this film scarier than most is that it’s completely true. Based on the true story of wealthy aristocrat John du Pont and the Olympic wrestling team that he formed on his Foxcatcher Farm, Foxcatcher is almost too strangely bizarre to believe. Directed with a cold, didactic method by Bennett Miller, it’s a film that grabs you and refuses to let go. It’s admittedly a little slow at times, but what’s happening on screen is usually so fascinating that you’ll be unable to look away. Featuring three of the best performances of 2014, Foxcatcher is a film with such a bizarre true story that you’ll be unable to get it out of your head, even days after the film has ended.

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is a champion wrestler who won gold at the 1984 Olympics, alongside his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). But Mark has not achieved the fame and success that his brother has. He’s a lonely guy and he’s constantly living under his brother’s shadow. But one day he receives a phone call that invites him to visit the Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania. Mark flies to the estate, where he’s introduced to John du Pont (Steve Carell), one of the wealthiest men in America. Du Pont is creating a private wrestling team and he wants Mark to be an integral part of it. Mark eagerly agrees and immediately moves onto the du Pont property. He and John start to spend a great deal of time together and they begin to form a strange bond. It’s this bond, along with the estranged relationship that du Pont shares with his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), that will lead to tragic and unpredictable situations.

From the eerie archival footage of Foxcatcher Farm that opens the movie (accompanied by Rob Simonsen’s haunting, sparingly used score), Foxcatcher holds you in an icy grip. In his best film to date, Bennett Miller has crafted a true-life tale that’s as haunting as a quiet nightmare. It’s very deliberately paced, almost crawling along at the speed of a snail to match the strange situations and uncomfortableness of the characters. And while the film is undeniably slow, it’s absolutely gripping from start to finish. The screenplay by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman ably explores these characters and the unique situations that they place themselves in. Aided by Greig Fraser’s suitably grim cinematography, Miller cloaks these characters and developments in a constant feeling of cold dread. There’s not a moment that feels out of place, which is strange for a film that feels so unusual.

But perhaps the most interesting thing in the entire movie is the character of John du Pont. I knew absolutely nothing about the man as I went into the film, but Miller and company do a fantastic job of exploring the psyche of this unusual character. He’s a man who was born into an extremely wealthy family, one that had so much money that du Pont could basically purchase anything that he desired. But his mother was clearly not a good caregiver and her lack of love and support were key factors in du Pont’s idiosyncrasies. Du Pont’s relationship with his mother may not take up much screen time in the film, but it’s a hugely important aspect to what makes the man tick. He’s clearly trying to impress his mother with his wrestling team; a scene where she visits a practice becomes extremely uncomfortable when John tries to show off some basic maneuvers in front of her, only for her to leave the room moments later. I’ve never seen somebody quite like this guy and it’s his character that gives the film most of its dramatic unease.

Steve Carell may not have been everybody’s first choice to play such a dark character, but he was undoubtedly the right choice. I’ve been championing Carell’s abilities as an actor for years now, but his performance as John du Pont is the highpoint of his career thus far. Aided by some extensive makeup work, Carell’s appearance is downright off-putting. With a large nose, clammy skin and a tendency to tilt his head back, he really does look like du Pont. But his performance is more than just appearances; from the way that he talks, all the way down to his strange mannerisms, Carell practically becomes the character. I’ve read testimonies about du Pont and watched old footage of him and Carell absolutely nails it. And while he’s undeniably creepy in the role, he also brings a humanity to the character that most performers simply would not be able to do. This is a man who is clearly mentally unstable, but his poor mental state is not entirely his fault. He was born into a family that was far from normal and he has a mother who treats him terribly, never offering a shred of affection or support. A scene where Carell confesses that a childhood acquaintance was only paid to be his friend by his mother is downright tragic. Still, all of the sympathy in the world can’t change how creepy du Pont is and Carell is able to get under your skin. Every scene that he’s in, you just can’t take your eyes off of him. This is a performance that people will be talking about for years.

But this is just as much the story of Mark Schultz as it is John du Pont. As Schultz, Channing Tatum also delivers a career-best performance. Schultz lacks all of the charm that Tatum is often known for, but he slides perfectly into this character. Schultz is a lonely guy and his entire life revolves around wrestling. He doesn’t seem particularly bright and he doesn’t have a lot of personality, but he’s a good person who just wants to make a name for himself. He looks up to du Pont like a father figure and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch how quickly Schultz attaches himself to this strange individual. Tatum’s performance is the most physical in the film, particularly in one scene where he destroys a hotel room. Tatum has a great onscreen relationship with Mark Ruffalo, who delivers a fantastically understated performance as Mark’s older brother Dave. Dave is the most “normal” character in the entire film and Ruffalo plays the part with a warmth and understanding. The relationship between Mark and Dave is a complicated one, but it’s clear that they both care for each other and it’s obvious that Dave very much loves his younger brother. Ruffalo is great in every scene that he’s in, but he’s particularly outstanding in a sequence where Dave is unable to call du Pont his mentor in front of a documentary filmmaker. Finally, Vanessa Redgrave is great as John’s mother, Jean du Pont. She only has a handful of scenes, but her performance is a crucial aspect to the overall film. She’s a cruel woman and a scene where she calls wrestling a low sport successfully explains so much about John’s character.

I could go on and on about what makes Foxcatcher so great: from the perfect production design by Jess Gonchor that captures the look and feel of Foxcatcher Farms, to the great editing from Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy and Conor O’Neill that prevents the film’s slow pace from ever dragging, this is a production where near perfection is achieved in practically every department. It’s a thematically rich film about tragedy, loneliness, the obsession to achieve greatness, homoerotic undertones within the relationship between John du Pont and Mark Schultz and the idea that the wealthiest people in America can use their money to buy whatever kind of life they desire. But even with the heavy subject matter, the film manages to be funny in the darkest possible way. From John’s declaration that his friends call him “Golden Eagle”, to a scene where John coaches Mark on a speech to give while also snorting cocaine, you’ll be surprised at the number of laughs that pop up in this dark drama. In just his fourth feature film, Bennett Miller has created a true work of art and put it up on-screen for all of us to see. Foxcatcher is nothing short of astounding.

Foxcatcher receives 4/4