July 8, 2012

Filthy Review - Carnage

Carnage (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Controversial Polish director Roman Polanski is not the most prolific director working in cinema today, quite possibly due to not being allowed into the United States in which many of his cast generally resides, but he has made some incredible movies. Films such as Rosemary’s Baby, Repulsion and Chinatown, amongst others, are all quite deserved of their classic status. Granted, the aforementioned were all made towards the start of his career, yet whenever he makes a film it is usually worthy of your attention.

Carnage comes to DVD 50 years after the release of Polanski’s debut feature film, and for a film with such a small cast and location, still manages to be a sharp, witty and darkly humorous tale. The strengths in Carnage lay more with the script, which Polanski co-wrote with Yasmina Reza (upon who’s play it is based), and the performances of the four principles though, rather than on the strength of Polanski’s direction.

The story concerns two sets of parents who are brought together after an altercation between two of their children at school. Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly play Penelope and Michael Longstreet, whose son is the victim of an attack by the son of Nancy and Allan Cowan, played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. The attack is shown at the beginning of the film and it is quite apparent who the aggressor is, and who is the victim.

What starts as a simple case of the two sets of parents exchanging facts about the incident soon descends into a barrage of digs and attacks at each, and between couples, as the film progresses.

Shot almost entirely within the Longstreet’s apartment, with the only other locations being the school playground and the corridor outside the apartment, the action focuses firmly on the four parents. In the hands of less articulate writers and cast this could easily spell disaster. There is nothing to distract away from the dialogue, or which there is plenty, and there is always the danger that the script will run out of steam.

Fortunately the film does not run its course too soon, as it only runs to a taut 80 minutes or so, and if anything leaves the viewer wanting more. John C. Reilly is outstanding as Michael and injects a good healthy dose of humor into his performance, although not the style of humor he is renowned for. Opposite him in the role of Allan is yet another fantastic performance from Christophe Waltz as a disinterested Lawyer who would much rather be somewhere else.

Jodie Foster could have easily just phoned in her performance of Penelope, yet she manages to play possibly the most stable character of the four, for the first half of the film anyway, with her usual excellence. Rounding out the four is Kate Winslet who, certainly not one to be left out, also gives a well-rounded delivery of her slightly understated character. All in all this is an incredible cast all giving excellent performances.

There is no showy action on display here; instead it is just under an hour and a half of cracking dialogue injected with wit, dark humor and savage honesty. Carnage may not be Roman Polanski’s finest movie, it is however an entirely engrossing and very good one. Recommended viewing indeed that parents will get a real kick from.

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