Best known for his 1970s horror classic Rosemary’s Baby, Roman Polanski is no stranger to apartment-set dramas. In Carnage, based on the stage play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza, he takes four of the finest actors working in Hollywood and sticks them in a New York City apartment for almost the entire running time film. The film set was actually designed and shot in Paris because of Polanski’s fugitive status in the US. It provided Golden Globe nominations for its two female stars but only just took back the $25m it cost to make at the box office.
Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly) live in an apartment in New York and have invited other married couple Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz) over to discuss an incident involving their children fighting. While trying to discuss how to deal with their children, the couples middle class sensibilities and manners slowly start to slip, dragging them all down into a acid-tongued series of exchanges.
Carnage boasts a collection of Oscar winner and nominated actors on stellar form. Reilly is superb as the lower class member of the group, obviously uncomfortable as the initial mediator. He slowly lets slip that he is unhappy being dressed as a psuedo-intellectual by his fragile and overly-sensitive, liberal with a capital L wife, played with increasing hysteria by Foster. However, the truly great scenes are given to Waltz, who happily tears everyone else apart with his high-intellect and acidic one-liners, which sit at odds with his own wife played by Winslet, who begins as a seemingly caring mother, before getting drunk and letting her true side loose on proceedings.
In order to keep the scabrous script flying along as a decent pace, the quartet switch allegiances throughout as they cover topics such as politics, youth, law, gender divide and above all else, the incident involving their children. Carnage makes you pay attention, because at a mere 79 minutes in running time, the changes a so breakneck that if you missed one comment you might not understand why one person is now allied with another. Polanski never misses a trick to poke fun at all opinions within and your favourite character will no doubt reflect your own views on life. There’s even a cameo for the director as he peers through the door of a neighbours apartment to watch the intellectual ‘carnage’ that he has created.
At no moment are you left bored or disinterested as the incredible cast are given free reign to cut loose and really get the intellectual juices flowing.
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