"If you aren't aware of this real story behind this and are curious to see Carell as a wonderfully sinister and controlling character, then I can't recommend Foxcatcher enough"

It's tempting to presume that sports films emerging around this time of year – particularly ones that focus on a darkly complex, troubled protagonist -- are hopeful for Oscar contention, and Foxcatcher is no different.

This film tells the true tale of Mark Schultz, played by a suitably beefy Channing Tatum, who is a gold-winning Olympic wrestler trying to continue his success ahead of the ‘88 games. Set in 1987, Schultz trains in a humble, low-key gym with his cool-headed, older brother, David, played by Mark Ruffalo. Tatum’s Mark is the bad-tempered, younger sibling, which is in stark contrast to David. The upcoming entry to the 1988 games is his main focus, unlike the priorities of settled, family man David.

During the first act, I expected the focus to be on Mark’s slow but inspiring/slightly nauseating journey towards the final tournament, sans an 80s montage track, of course. However, after a phone call to trainer John du Pont's house, the film takes a most welcomed eerie turn.

Du Pont, portrayed by an uncanny Steve Carell (in subtle, yet effective prosthetics makeup), invites Mark Schultz to his enormous mansion with a proposition for him to stay and train at his well-funded facility. 

With financial backing and a fanatical, patriotic motivation to make America ‘great’ again, du Pont paints a curious picture of a philanthropist with a disturbing ambition to use Mark in for little more than his own self-gratification. Amusingly, there are a handful of chuckles to be had at the expense of du Pont's absurd behaviour, with an insistence that he be called "The Golden Eagle", among his delusions of grandeur; this definitely isn't the fluffy Steve Carell we’re used to seeing make us laugh. 

Du Pont is played with emotionally blunt sociopathic tendencies, and is just enough to appear creepy without being overtly menacing. Even the lack of enunciation in his speech, general demeanour and lack of charisma in a man whose life in a rich, pampered dynasty makes him seems like an obsessed, spoiled child. This is conveyed when we learn that du Pont's mother, Jean (Vanessa Redgrave), continues to make the rules of the household; in particular, the trophy room whereby du Pont attempts to replace his mother’s trophies with his wrestling ones. 

A naive Schultz is torn between his brother and the increasing fatherly obsession with John -- later on John even manages to convince David to train with the team at his place.

Moving at a steady pace as du Pont becomes increasingly erratic, his presence and relationship with the Schultz brothers is easily the most interesting element in the film.

Sienna Miller as David's wife is almost non-existent (which certainly doesn't pass the Bechdel test) and while Channing Tatum is the believable, determined and self-critical athlete, the film does feel a slow when depicting those key moments. 

Fortunately from the very beginning, Foxcatcher offers something more. An early, convincing sparring session with Mark Ruffalo’s David does well to shift away from the sport and towards the intricacies of the characters.

If you aren't aware of this real story behind this and are curious to see Carell as a wonderfully sinister and controlling character, then I can't recommend Foxcatcher enough. And for those now bored of sports films, the character-driven elements are perhaps your only respite in a tale that is otherwise a slow but effective heavy-hitter.