When heading to the cinema to see a Roman Polanski production, at the very least you are guaranteed a good quality feature – and Carnage is just that.
The premise is alluring – that of two couples meeting cordially, simply to discuss their two sons who had been fighting, yet what prevails is just as immature and juvenile as the actions of their children, as the parents, desperate to resolve the issue, end up simply making matters worse, as scenes descend to, well, carnage.
The film begins by showing the initial brawl, on which the story is set. One child strikes another with a stick – the victim of the situation being the child of Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly), who therefore invite the parents of the perpetrator, Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz) round for a discussion in an effort to resolve the affray. And then the whisky comes out.
Based on the play ‘God of Carnage’ by Yasmina Reza, whom also assisted Polanski in writing the screenplay for her screen adaptation, this is a film that you can definitely tell is based upon a play, as it’s set in just one room throughout, featuring just four characters, with an emphasise on dialogue, fundamental when amidst such confined surroundings.
Therefore despite enjoying the film, I do feel that it would work greater on stage, and I spent much of the film envisaging such a production. But fortunately, due to the experience and eminence of the four cast members, it made the film flow naturally and suddenly the potential feeling of claustrophobia wasn’t as issue whatsoever.
It really did feel that this was four excellent actors at their very best. Waltz turned in his best performance since Inglorious Bastards – as our attempt to forgive and disregard for previous roles in films such as Water for Elephants and The Three Musketeers begins.
Reilly was also brilliantly funny, particularly in his dialogue with Waltz, also bringing a political edge to the film as a gulf in social classes and professions opens up. Foster played a neurotic mother alarmingly well, whilst Winslet, whose character I felt had the least depth, was still effective as the more reserved Nancy.
It is quite remarkable really that the film works so well, given its cramped setting and lack of activity. Yet due to the pace of the terribly witty script, and constant dialogue throughout, the characters bounce off one another, which make the film move in a very swift fashion, making the feature feel a lot shorter than it actually is.
Its length and succinctness quite vital really as although thoroughly enjoying the film, I doubt it could have gone on for too much longer before feeling completely contrived – afterall, there are so many ways you can keep two belligerent couples at bay before things really get out of hand.
But it you combine four big-name, gifted Hollywood stars, combined with a hilarious premise, matched by its witty and comical script, and then throw Roman Polanski in the mix, you’re pretty much assured of a film that’s of a very high standard, and I am very pleased to say that it’s exactly that.