(M) Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.  Matthew 6:24

Many do not know how Olympic athletes get funding for their training, but all people desire to see their countrymen or women on the champions podium. Foxcatcher is based on actual events that occurred in the American professional wrestling community, during the 1980s. It is a masterful, mat-based tragedy of an eccentric multi-millionaire, two champion wrestlers and the desire to achieve their goals. Extremely wealthy John du Pont (Steve Carell) gives Olympic gold medallist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) the chance to lead the training of future Olympic wrestlers, at a state-of-the art facility. Striving to get out from under the legendary effect of his revered brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), Mark will eventually also pull Dave into du Pont’s twisted world.

Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) has an uncanny ability to take real-life stories that contain elements unfamiliar to the general populace, and make them accessible and engaging. Foxcatcher has Olympic wrestling as its backdrop, but becomes a tragic tale of money, power and identity. The Shultz brothers were some of the most celebrated wrestlers in US history, but the twisted end to their story has attracted most attention.

The three leads are almost unrecognisable, yet brilliantly manage to personify their characters. Tatum and Ruffalo do masterful work showing the mentality and physicality of world-class wrestling. The muscle-bound walk, the beautiful brutality, and the close camaraderie of this athletic community help the viewer understand how such a series of events could occur.

Miller manages to develop for us a basic understanding of this world, as he also sets the trajectory for a tragic conclusion. Also, his direction allows Carrell to turn from a comedian into an effective method actor. With the managed intensity of wrestling itself, the story and performances will hold your attention and leave you exhausted in the end. This is not the “Feel-Good Movie of the Season” but, like the hypnotic state of du Pont, this expertly crafted story has a mesmerising effect and is well worth the time.

Many different life lessons can be taken from Foxcatcher, but none stand out more than the impossibility of serving two masters. The film looks at the duality between the Shultz brothers, the relationship between Mark and John du Pont and, ultimately, between wrestling and money. Miller manages to communicate the impossibility of serving two masters. The film begs the question: “What are you willing to do to achieve your dreams?” In achieving these goals and dreams, do the very things that allow you to achieve them begin to dictate how you live? Foxcatcher is a film about wrestling, but leaves you considering even deeper things in life.

Leaving the cinema…

The story has all that is needed to captivate the audience, but the performances of the three leads take it to a new level of enjoyment. Miller proves that simple but well-told stories continue to have a place in cinema. This film is worth a look.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?

  1. What can we know about brothers from the Bible? (Proverbs 17:17, Matthew 12:48-50)
  2. Can we love God and money? (Matthew 6:24, 1 Timothy 6:10)
  3. What does the Bible say about wealth? (Matthew 6:19-21, Hebrews 13:5)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger


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