Film Review: Carnage

(Published in Issue 7 of my publication In Retrospect)


Co-written and directed by Roman Polanski, Carnage is a black comedy that follows two sets of parents, Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and Nancy and Alan Cowan (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz), who meet to discuss their sons’ behaviour after having been in a fight at school. But what was intended to be a five-minute apology turns into over an hours worth of arguments, drinking and judgments from all corners of the room, as it soon becomes apparent that their sons’ childish behaviour is something they all have in common.

Based on the play God of Carnage written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, Carnage is a 70-minute long, single scene that follows the first meeting of these two couples as they sit, eat, drink and diverse in a small New York apartment. Whilst at first that doesn’t seem like a great premise for a film, and believe me I found it more than questionable beforehand, it somehow really works as a basis for the film. Adapted brilliant from stage to screen by Polanski, Carnage develops at a speed that makes it constantly interesting, naturally funny and brilliantly orchestrated.

Of course, the cast is very important here as, without any other ongoing stories outside of this room, excluding the incoming phone calls, or special effects to take the focus away from these four people, they are very much the only focus. Without a well-known cast I don’t think this would have done as well at all as, knowing that these actors are what the film is all about, the plotline itself is not enough to entice a big audience, but not only did the cast come together in the film brilliant, it is also what first attracted me, and I’m sure many others, to the film in the first place. Personally, it was the casting of Christoph Waltz that first turned my attention, but by the end of seeing the film, I felt admirable towards all four members of the cast.

As briefly mentioned, Waltz was what first made me interested in the film and by the end is one of the main reasons as to why I enjoyed it. Usually seen as the bad character in a movie, he still held his strong presence throughout but managed to be somehow likeable whilst still having an evil glare about him. Furthermore, Reilly also does well through his relatable character, as he is at his best in more serious roles that still encompass his comedic edge. For me, Reilly was perfect in his role here, and whilst I would almost say that he was the actor that most suited his character, it really is hard to fault any of them. Winslet didn’t have the best scenes to play but she really pulled off her stuck-up yet fed-up character, whilst Foster as well excelled playing a somewhat similar but almost completely opposite character to her at the same time. These four together were a well-fit match, and they, together, are the reason that you will love this film.

However, whilst Carnage is very good for what it is, it’s hard to escape its premise of a 70-minute long conversation that doesn’t go anywhere else. Albeit a comical and entertaining meeting between these couples, I would recommend this for a duvet day rather than a night out at the cinema.

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