Although the name would imply otherwise, if you’re looking for a lot of action, you won’t find it here. But that doesn’t mean that this film is not vicious. Carnage is funny and entertaining, which is an impressive feat when one considers that the film basically consists of watching four people argue.
The situation that the characters find themselves is simple. There are two sets of parents and their sons have gotten into a fight. The parents are meeting to try to come to an understanding about the events that have transgressed. As uncomfortable truths come out, the day devolves into verbal carnage.
Even from the beginning of the film, we can feel the tension amongst the parents. Carnage succeeds in taking the traditional bickering couple and doubling it to create an intriguing dynamic. As the film progresses we see alliances build up, break down and switch, based on gender as well as other commonalities.
Carnage is a film that is very obviously based on a play. The whole film takes place in one apartment (and its hallway) and focuses on only four characters. It is extremely dialogue heavy. The restrictions of the medium of theatre are pretty much directly translated into the film.
For a script that focuses so heavily on dialogue, it is lucky that the dialogue is so well written and realistic. Although it does seem a tad unrealistic that this kind of interaction would ever develop this way. Why the visiting couple never leaves out of politeness, yet acts so impolite, is a conundrum.
The talent necessary to pull off a film like this was definitely there. The acting was very good indeed, though the men seem to have been given more likeable and charming roles—especially Alan Cowan (Waltz). These are flawed people, but their motivations were entirely believable.
Unfortunately, there really is no character development. There are certainly revelations and further depiction of who these people are, but this is not a situation where anybody appears to have learned a life lesson. If anything, these people leave the situation feeling more justified and grounded in their beliefs.
Dir: Roman Polanski; comedy, 80 mins;
Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Premiered Feb 2