Steve Carell has come a long way since pulling pranks at Dunder-Mifflin. The "Anchorman" and "The Office" actor is leaping far past the world of comedy and firmly into the terrifying thriller pool, turning in a transformative performance at the heart of this weekend's "Foxcatcher."
Directed by Bennett Miller of "Moneyball" and "Capote" fame, "Foxcatcher" adapts the true story of a horrible and bitter rivalry between three men, including Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as a pair of professional athletes and siblings, caught in the net of a twisted billionaire, played by an unrecognizable Carell.
From nearly all accounts, the main draw of "Foxcatcher" is the performances from all three of the leads, but Carell especially. Is an Oscar in the former Michael Scott's future?
Here's what critics are saying about "Foxcatcher":
"A revelatory Tatum plays Mark Schultz, winner of an Olympic gold medal for wrestling in 1984, but still dwarfed by the shadow of his older brother Dave (Ruffalo in top form). Dave also has the gold, plus a wife (Sienna Miller), two kids and the social graces Mark lacks. Enter John du Pont (Carell), the Pennsylvania blueblood who offers to take in single, shy Mark at his Foxcatcher farm and train him for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Du Pont also lives in a shadow, that of his wheelchair-bound mother (Vanessa Redgrave, expressing a lifetime of disapproval with simply a glance).
"What happens next is a matter of public record. A family unravels. A murder takes place. But Miller, working from a quietly devastating script by Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, exposes the diseased underbelly of American exceptionalism. Carell, sporting a fake nose and an elitist whisper, does the same." — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
"Carell is so convincing, so unrecognizable and so profoundly chilling as John du Pont that you quickly move through the reaction of 'Whoa! That’s Steve Carell with a fake nose!' and out the other side. There’s an element of high-wire walk to Miller’s cinema, a combination of craft and daring that defines its own purpose: He’s going to engage you with a story set in a world you may not know about or care about (in this case, the intersection of amateur sports and big money), and he’s going to give big stars the chance to disappear into a meaty dramatic performance.
"There can be no doubt about Carell on that front, and, honestly, he could have skipped the fake honker (most outrageous schnozz seen in Hollywood since Nicole Kidman’s in 'The Hours'). His blocky, slightly hunched body language, his stolid and obtuse gaze, the expression conveying a certainty that the world will never live up to his exalted expectations – everything about du Pont suggests a guy who can have everything his own way but is never satisfied with it." — Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com
The Hulk Brothers
"Tatum plays Mark Schultz like he's auditioning for the role of the Hulk in the next 'Avengers'; a brooding, seething mass of muscles and inarticulate rage. Ruffalo (a.k.a. the guy who actually plays the Hulk in the next 'Avengers') plays Dave as a more outgoing, gregarious man (who, for reasons that aren't explained, seems to have a totally different accent from his brother). He has a sensitive side, but he's also capable of his own eruptions of violence, and the training sequences between the two Schultzes escalate into brutal physical battles." — Matt Singer, ScreenCrush.com
What Lies Beneath
"Miller, the director of 2005's 'Capote' and 2011's 'Moneyball,' has shown a knack for turning real-life events into prestige procedural dramas. His movies may center on a gruesome murder in Kansas, a baseball team's unorthodox philosophy, or, in this case, a pair of wrestler brothers who come under the wing of an unstable benefactor. But what they're all really about is America: our obsession with pulpy true crime, our desire to see the underdog win, our lurid fascination with the dark side of our democracy's rich and powerful elite." — Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
The Final Word
"There's no fluff in 'Foxcatcher.' It's bleak by design, dense and, at times, intentionally impenetrable. Rob Simonsen's delicate score strings an elegy across a Hell of dampened interiors and blue-hued vistas. Tatum and Ruffalo entangle on the wrestling mat, stand up and shake hands afterward, but their fight never ends. When they step on to the grounds of Foxcatcher Farms, they enter John du Pont's cult, become his pawns. There's not a hint of fantasy in 'Foxcatcher' and it's still the scariest monster movie of the year." — Matt Patches, IGN Movies
"Foxcatcher" is in theaters now.