If you can imagine Nixon resigning in the middle of All the President’s Men, with the remainder of the film dedicated to Woodward and Bernstein fighting their editor, you have a pretty good idea how Kill the Messenger plays out. It’s not a bad film, but it is a sloppy one that squanders a firecracker start and a terrific performance from Jeremy Renner. As Gary Webb ponders whether to publish his inflammatory story, he is advised that, “Some stories are just too true to tell.” Such is the case with some scripts, which, in their admirable haste to relate the truth, forget the requirements of compelling storytelling. If you want to find the heart of Webb’s story, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.
With Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) directs a tragic tale of American ambition gone awry. It’s a grave and stately undertaking that’s based on the real story of John du Pont, heir to one of the richest families in America, who dreamed of building a wrestling team around the talents of two gold medal wrestlers that came from modest means. The inequality of power pushes the tension between the three over the edge. Although the film isn’t an awe-inspiring achievement as a whole, the performances and atmosphere stimulate the senses and hold a firm grip on the viewer’s attention.
John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) speaks to his newly-founded wrestling squad about patriotic values as if reciting a sport-oriented “Star-Spangled Banner”. But du Pont is no Francis Scott Key — his words are weak, but his money is strong. This is du Pont’s America in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher: a grand team that he’s accidentally but proudly charging through his money, a game that can be bought. Yes, the film intends to talk about America as much as it does the disquieting personalities of this bleak true story. Though saturated with grandiose metaphors and a message worn carelessly on its sleeves, Foxcatcher confirms Bennett Miller as one of the best character directors working in Hollywood.