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SYNOPSIS: Two brothers and former Olympic wrestling champions - Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) become involved in a fateful and fatal friendship with a neurotic millionaire sponsor, John du Pont (Steve Carell) in the lead up to the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul.

Review by Louise Keller:
There are many elements to this true story about wealth, wrestling and winning but it is Steve Carell's extraordinary metamorphose as the creepy John E. du Pont, complete with unsettling gaze and manner that is the film's most haunting element. The authentic depiction of a man cocooned within his dynasty of wealth and power offers revealing insights into emotional and sexual inadequacies. Following Capote (2005) with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Moneyball (2011) with Brad Pitt, director Bennett Miller's third feature is equally strong. It is claustrophobic in that it envelops us into an obsessive world with its own reality. It is a world into which Channing Tatum's ambitious wrestler, Mark Schultz is easily seduced, whereas his well-adjusted brother and coach Dave (Mark Ruffalo) cannot be bought and becomes the unwitting pawn in the unraveling of the dream.

But it is not only Carell's performance that is outstanding. Tatum and Ruffalo bring layers of complexity in their strong, nuanced performances. The strong bond between the two brothers is firmly established from the outset. The sequence in which Mark and Dave warm up in the gym starts with gentle, almost loving gestures as muscles are toned but ends with aggression, indicating that there is obviously more going on than just wrestling. Mark's resentment of his reliance on his brother is clear and plays a pivotal part when du Pont's sudden appearance as a benefactor provides the wrestler with a chance to make it on his own.

The introduction of du Pont and his affluent world with private jet, chopper and mansion on its large Pennsylvania estate is a game changer. Carell is almost unrecognizable, swallowed up by the physicality of the pale, nerdy man with a perpetual frown and prominent nose that points high into the air as if he conferring with a force from above. It's a mesmerizing performance and we can't take our eyes off him for a single second - even though as a man, he is repulsive and totally inconsequential. He describes himself as a bird-lover, wrestling fan and patriot and uses his position and money to intimidate and buy the credibility he lacks. There is something about him that makes our skin crawl: the way he knocks on Mark's chalet in the middle of the night and touching him suggestively. It's a dazzling portrait.

Vanessa Redgrave's role as du Pont's invalid mother may be small but she makes a huge impact. Trophies relating to her valuable horses are displayed everywhere and du Pont's distaste for horses is mirrored in her disapproval for wrestling. The undercurrent of silent loathing festers between the two, reflecting in part the resentment between the brothers.

Tension builds and the relationship between du Pont and Mark totally breaks down as the pressures mount in the lead up to the Seoul 88 Olympics. By this time Mark is in no fit state to compete, having been coaxed into the cocaine habit. That is the moment when Dave agrees to resume his training role.

It's a tragic tale and Miller allows the all-important fleshing out of the characters through the superb script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman.

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(US, 2014)

CAST: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave

PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik, Bennett Miller

DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller

SCRIPT: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman


EDITOR: Jay Cassidy, Stuart Levy, Conor O'Neill

MUSIC: Rob Simonsen


RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 29, 2014

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