Lowdown: Two couples confined to one apartment argue one another to the point of collapse.
The first thing one needs to know about Carnage is that it is a Roman Polanski film. The second is that other than the short opening and closing scenes, the whole movie takes place inside a New York apartment where two couples are locked: Penelope (Jodie Foster) and husband Michael (John C. Reilly) together with Nancy (Kate Winslet) and husband Alan (Christoph Waltz). And the third thing you need to know is that what follows is a direct result of the former two: An unmistakably Polanski film that allows the talents of its four stars to shine through, theater style.
The premises are simple. The opening scene depicts a public park where a gang of kids picks on a single child who defends himself with a stick. Next we’re at said apartment, where the parents of the boy with the stick came to see the parents of the boy at the wrong end of the stick for a conciliation visit. What starts off well moves through cycles in which one couple is primed to charge the other, intermixed with cycles where the males have a go at the females and vice versa. It’s hard to pick a core theme here, although if forced I will go with a philosophical discussion on the foundations of ethics.
More to the point, what we have here is an open ticket for some fine actors to offer their product in a generally entertaining way. They all sail through with good performances, even if the premises of the four “stuck” in an apartment doesn’t really make sense and occasionally feels artificial.
The end result is mildly amusing and entertaining; mostly, it is unique. In this age of digital special effects and such, it is hard to find movie so heavily reliant on nothing but the actors and their dialog. Thus while Carnage may not shatter the cinema art world, it definitely stands out as an interesting creation.
Best scene: The final scene, going back to the park, puts the whole preceding hour and a half inside the apartment into perspective. A lovely perspective.
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars. Not the best film ever, but if you’re ready for a unique experience then Carnage is definitely worth having a go.