While most of the buzz is clamouring around Steve Carrell’s transformative role as the aloof and privileged John Du Pont, it’s actually Channing Tatum that anchors Foxcatcher.

TIFF 2014 Foxcatcher

Bennett Miller uses icy detachment to spin the harrowing saga of the Schultz brothers, Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave (Mark Ruffalo) who buy into the vision of America and its exceptionalism by millionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carrell). Miller found the story absurdly funny, and that dark humour finds its way into the film as it conjures up the toxic egos of the men as they slowly get corrupted by their desires for greatness.

America looms large over Foxcatcher, from the flags that adorn Du Pont’s trophy room, to his warped desire to bring “hope” as a funder and coach for the US Wrestling Team at his Foxcatcher estate. He recruits Mark, who is easily taken in by Du Pont’s speeches, and the tender platitudes about his potential and greatness. His brother Dave is more reluctant to move, but later caves into Du Pont’s pressure and money.

We sympathize with all three of these flawed men as they make awful deals because the stage is set for their undoing. Du Pont and Mark share a kindred desire to prove themselves to both each other and their families, and when Dave enters the picture, he’s humiliated in bending to Du Pont’s will. The film is rife with sibling rivalry, and men looking for whatever toxic father or mentor that they can believe in.

With a halting cadence in his WASPy accent, and heavy prosthetics, Steve Carell understands the absurdity and aloofness of Du Pont, a compelling monster who inspires pity. However, I’ll be rooting for Channing Tatum during the awards season, as he’s just so understated, with pained anguish and vulnerability. Ruffalo is having a stellar year, and delivers yet another perfect performance. It’s a chilly exploration at the prices that men pay to live up to their vision of the American Dream.

Foxcatcher releases across North America on November 14, 2014.