Carnage (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner21/10/2011

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 79 mins

Sharply written and smartly directed, this is an enjoyable, blackly comic drama with terrific performances from all four leads, though it's also something of a one-joke movie.

What's it all about?
Directed by Roman Polanski, Carnage is based on a play by Yasmina Reza (The God of Carnage) and stars Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz as Nancy and Alan, a pair of affluent New York parents whose young son has severely injured another boy in a playground fight. The victim's parents (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly as Penelope and Michael) invite Nancy and Alan round to their house in an attempt to make the peace, but the forced niceties quickly crumble as the two couples descend into bitter attacks of their own.

The Good
A film that takes place in a single location is naturally going to stand or fall on the quality of its performances and fortunately, all four leads are on terrific form. Reilly is reliably good as the insensitive John (who cheerfully admits to dumping his kid's hamster on the street) and it's a treat to see Winslet (ostensibly contrite but seizing the first opportunity to regain some moral high ground) and Foster (brittle and seething with barely contained righteousness) facing off against one another, though the stand-out is Christoph Waltz, who gets all the best lines as Alan, a sneeringly amoral lawyer who's constantly taking calls from his boss regarding an imminent medical lawsuit (his priceless reaction when something happens to his precious Blackberry is a definite highlight).

The script bristles with great dialogue, ensuring that the characters' increasingly fraught interaction is simultaneously darkly funny and utterly excruciating. There's also at least one genuinely shocking but also laugh-out-loud funny moment (at least if you're unfamiliar with the play) that it would be unfair to reveal here.

The Bad
The main problem is that Carnage is essentially a one-joke movie, the joke being that in attempting to sort out their problems like grown-ups, the adults end up behaving worse than their children. Consequently, once you get that idea, there's nowhere else for the film to go and the ending feels rather weak as a result.

Given that the play deliberately takes place in a single location, Polanski understandably makes no attempt to disguise the film's stage origins (beyond two book-ending credits sequences with kids playing in a park), though the upshot of that is that it does feel very much like watching a play (indeed, you half expect the cast to take their bows at the end) and the characters never quite feel realistic.

Worth seeing?
Carnage is an engaging, enjoyable and blackly comic drama that's worth seeing for the terrific performances from all four leads.

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Carnage (M)
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Content updated: 13/11/2019 07:11

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