• R, 1 hr. 20 min.
  • Drama, Comedy
  • Directed By:
    Roman Polanski
    In Theaters:
    Dec 16, 2011 Limited
    On DVD:
    Mar 20, 2012
  • Sony Pictures Classics

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Carnage Reviews

Page 1 of 93
Nicki M

Super Reviewer

April 12, 2013
Too unsubstantial to be a great movie. Pretty much two couples in one room arguing about a physical fight their sons got into. I believe it is adapted from a play. As such it feels unnatural and strained that they all stay in the room, annoyed as they are at each other.
Performances are good. I'm not a parent, so the topic was not overly exciting to me. Maybe others would get more out of it.
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

October 24, 2011
I guess I am not a Roman Polanski fan...I'm still looking for the dark humor, or any humor, for that matter...
cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

October 5, 2011
This is based on a play, and that's essentially how it comes off, only filmed.

The plot here focuses on the aftermath of a fight between two kids on a playground. The parents of the 'victim' invite the parents of the 'bully' over to their home for a discussion of how to handle the situation/raise children in general. Over the course of no more than a few hours, their conversation goes from polite to all out savage, with each person turning on the other, showing their true colors, and illustrating how a little disagreement can cause a lot of carnage.

Aside from outdoor shots at the park that serve as bookends, the rest of the film takes place in the rooms (and extremely briefly) the hallway of the apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster)- the parents of the 'victim'. Given this set up, and how there's not really any cinematic flourishes going on, the film's success is absolutely dependent upon the writing and acting. This film is really almost nothing but talking, but man is it some juicy stuff.

Besides the previously mentioned Reilly and Foster, the other parents, Nancy and Alan Cowan, are played by Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz. Given that this is directed by Polanski, and features three Oscar winners (one of them a double), and an Oscar nominee, this has to be good. Has to. And thankfully, it mostly is.

Reilly might be the weakest link here, but I think he's robably the funniest and most easy to relate to. Everyone gets their moments, but even though Reilly might be the most relatable, none of them are totally sympathetic, and the film makes it difficult to discern who should be rooted for, if anyone. That's what I liked about it. Each one has a good side, and they're all well-rounded, but it's their savagery and flaws that stick out most (probably on purpose), and seeing four not totally sympathetic people act horrible has a perversely dark joy to it., with a big chunk of the laughs being of the dark variety to begin with.

Yeah, this is a polarizing movie, and won't be for everyone, but it is a great display of acting, and seeing these specific performers in the roles is what helps make it great. I do think the conclusion is anti-climactic, and could have been better handled, and maybe the film shouldn't have been book ended by moments outside the apartment, but still, this film is kinda gutsy. It's certainly not boring, but I was really left wanting more after it was done, and not exactly in a good way, either. It's certainly fun while it lasts, even if it is quite brief.
Lucas M

Super Reviewer

January 4, 2012
With very good actings by Foster and Winslet, Polanski's picture it's a exhausting and darkly funny film.
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

July 16, 2012
The reputation of Roman Polanski's classic work leads you to expect nothing but the very best from him. Even with the occasional stumble, such as Pirates or The Ninth Gate, you still enter into any new film he makes with high expectations, and even in his recent work he has delivered. But whereas The Pianist and The Ghost Writer were examples of masterful cinematic craft, Carnage is a disappointingly stagey effort, which fails to flesh out the ideas of its source material or satisfy us as a black comedy.

There seems to be a conscious attempt by Polanski to position Carnage as a descendant of his acclaimed Apartment Trilogy, comprising Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant. Fans of his work who were not familiar with the play probably saw the film on the basis of his track record in generating unbearable tension within seemingly harmless domestic settings. And like his Apartment Trilogy, Polanski makes an on-screen appearance, peering around the door of the neighbouring apartment as the row between the characters begins to escalate.

But while there is a continuity of setting, the films lacks Polanski's motif of using architecture to express malevolence. He is a master at manipulating light, colour and composition to make something as plain and simple as a wall appear to be harbouring great threat towards the characters. When married to a story involving unreliable narration or mental instability, this aspect places increased doubt in the viewer's mind, deeply unnerving us as tension builds. In this case, we are given a pretty standard-looking, upmarket Brooklyn apartment, in which the characters sit and say their lines without much going on around them.

Carnage does attempt to explore a number of interesting ideas, of which some have contemporary significance and others have become staples of comedy or drama depicting middle-class life. It is, to coin a phrase, a "behind the picket fence" movie, insofar as it depicts characters and their living space as having a veneer of civility masking widespread corruption and immorality. This is a very familiar theme, which puts the film loosely in the company of Blue Velvet, The Stepford Wives and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (more on that later).

Where Carnage differs, certainly from the first two comparisons, is its relative lack of stylisation. Both David Lynch and Bryan Forbes went to some length to orchestrate and elevate the unease caused by their over-perfect, chocolate box suburbia, using music and the visuals to pull you into a dark and horrifying world. Polanski, for once, wishes to play the material with understatement, relying on the characters alone to create malevolence. And for the most part this decision works as much in its favour as anything else; we get to experience the characters' frustrations without feeling like our response is being shaped a certain way.

Within this basic, well-worn theme, the film raises various other questions or points for discussion. It explores the cause and effect behind acts of great evil, raising questions about whether responsibility lies with individuals or whether acts like war and genocide are the product of a society which influences and determines our behaviour. The film questions what constitutes making a difference, with Jodie Foster's character being mocked for wanting to write a book about Darfur; she believes she is making a difference, while her husband and guests say she just wants to feel good about herself.

The title of the original play, God of Carnage, is uttered by Christoph Waltz as an explanation for such catastrophic events. Both he and John C. Reilly's character share some kind of nihilistic outlook, believing that there is nothing that can be done to prevent such carnage wrecking the Earth. The group are divided into the Nearderthals (who, to quote The Dark Knight, "just want to watch the world burn") and the bleeding heart liberals who believe in making a difference. Neither group is shown to have any credibility: Waltz cannot cope when his phone is destroyed, and Foster and Kate Winslet both resort to heavy drinking

Both the play and the film have a very mean-spirited, ironic view of mankind. They posit the idea that when we try to behave and solve our problems like adults, we are only kidding ourselves and things very quickly break down into childish bickering. Rather, the best way is to live red in tooth and claw, to allow our animal urges to take control - and, wouldn't you know it, living in such short-termist, selfish and impulsive ways might actually work. While the four adults gradually collapse until they are nothing but shells, their children sort out their differences with no intervention whatsoever - a cruel joke whose irony is not lost on us.

For all the ideas that it explores, however, Carnage ends up being hamstrung by three major problems. The first is that is doesn't really feel like a film: it feels like a recording of the play, or perhaps an extended TV episode. The production values may be good, but in an age where HBO are producing dramas as slick as anything Hollywood can offer, that's no longer enough. Despite Jasmina Reza having a hand in the screenplay, it doesn't feel like it has been properly adapted; the camerawork is uninventive and the editing is all long, slow tracking shots, which mimic our heads turning as we watch people move about on stage.

The second problem with the film, and perhaps the play, is that all the characters are deeply, deeply annoying. They score over the characters in The Squid and the Whale, or any Noah Baumbach film, because at least in this case there is something going on. But if we don't pick up on or understand all of the philosophical undercurrents, it becomes nothing more than four over-privileged New Yorkers moaning for 80 minutes. Although it always feels like there is some kind of end to this means, their complaints are so banal or removed from reality that we often lack the patience or desire to spend more time with them.

The third and final problem with Carnage is its pomposity. It comes across as a film which is attempting to be edgy, outré, radical or controversial, and in advertising these characteristics so broadly and willingly it ends up being none of these things. Even if the underlying idea makes sense (whether or not you accept it), none of the other discussions feel adequately resolved. Desiring ambiguity is one thing; throwing in random chunks of philosophy in a bid to sound clever is something else.

These flaws become all the more clear when you compare the film to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Like Carnage, it is based around two couples coming together in a domestic setting and playing mind games, leading to examinations of class differences, sexism, madness, politics and professional rivalry. Neither Edward Albee's play nor Mike Nichols' film were trying to be seen as edgy or ground-breaking - they just were. Carnage is trying too hard to be seen as edgy without doing the hard work needed to make us feel on edge.

The saving grace of Carnage is the performers, who really give their all. The film is final proof, if ever it were needed, that John C. Reilly is at his best in dramatic roles, as demonstrated by his brilliant performance in We Need To Talk About Kevin. Christoph Waltz continues his knack of being the best thing in sub-par productions, following on from recent turns in The Green Hornet and The Three Musketeers. And Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet both manage to keep us interested, with the latter deserving extra points for vomiting so convincingly.

Carnage is a disappointingly stagey and pompous production from a man whose body of work is normally anything but these qualities. It's not a total failure, on account of the four strong performances and its conscious effort to raise ideas or issues, rather than settling for middle-class moaning in and of itself. But it has neither the development nor the bite nor the shock value of Virginia Woolf?, playing on your patience when it should be messing with your head.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

July 26, 2012
Roman Polanski's Carnage is a film about the cruel and deviously disguised 'politeness' that exists in white middle class society. Two pairs of parents are brought together after one of their sons hits the other with a stick. We join them just as they are writing up the incident in a report both parties can agree on. Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz then spend the rest of the film trying to leave the apartment, but continue to be sucked in by Foster's passive aggressive nature. Foster continuously uses words such as 'disfigured' and 'armed with' to inflate the situation, much to Waltz's anger. The film lampoons the insane importance placed on politeness. The first time Waltz and Winslet try and leave, Reilly remembers they didn't offer them a drink and so quickly remedies the situation. As the film continues we see their gradual (or sudden as the film is less than 80 minutes) breakdown. All the pent up frustration boils to the surface, and we realise that for some reason this whole event is more important to the parents than it is to the boys. Polanski manages to capture little facial ticks that really take advantage of this as a film and not just a play. It's highly amusing and the four leads give magnificent performances. The parents quickly change alliance when they find themselves against the ropes. The second half wasn't as great as the first, as the first half relies on the analysis of dialogue and the subtext, whereas the second half has the characters drunk and just shouting out what they think and how they feel. A very wonderful film, that I dare say could have risked being a bit longer.
Samuel Riley
Samuel Riley

Super Reviewer

July 9, 2012
The only information I knew about this film is the all star cast. After finally watching it; I concluded that it was better than expected and I enjoyed it. The main flaw is the relatively slow pace the film creates. However, overcoming this will make the film easier to enjoy. One of the highlights is the superb acting, along with the differing personalities.

For example, Jodie Foster plays the emotionally unstable mother who wants everything to be reasonable. Foster's character is the only one who makes you think 'I can understand why she is saying this'.

Next is John C.Reilly, the short tempered slacker, who trys to handle the unease that develops between both families, but does make it worse.

Chistoph Waltz is the upper class father, who cares more for his business than his family.

Finally, Kate Winslet is the mother who sees herself as the perfect mother, but won't confess of being wrong.

The tension that is created between both familes is interesting; it starts with a reasonable conversation, but ends with everyone acting like children.

The humour in this film is definitely dark, but only adults/parents will easily catch on. With a great cast and a unique sense of humour; 'Carnage' is a slow paced comedy that eventually explodes with insults and some good laughs.
Wildaly M

Super Reviewer

July 6, 2012
Comedies are not my thing but this provided funny laughs under the circumstances.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

May 24, 2012
A dialogue-driven bash in the face of parenthood and the facade of interacting with other parents, especially when it is due to a dispute that leaves one couple's son physically injured after the other couple's boy attacks him, which leads to a verbal session in a nice New York apartment. While obviously more fit for the stage than the medium of film, director Roman Polanski gets the most out of his actors to make this thing engaging and realistic despite being only 80 minutes and on the way out of the door when it starts. While Jodie Foster overacts a tad, the rest of the cast is pretty spot on, notably John C. Reilly in a hilariously relaxed performance that unexpectedly changes gears in the latter half of the film that makes it all the more funny and involving. It is no "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", but it is an impressive small-scale effort on how protecting one's image through the use of performing and acting instead of being yourself from the start can lead to disastrous results that ultimately lead to others questioning one's security and trustfulness.
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

November 27, 2011
Darkly funny, scathing indictment of what passes for "normal" or "responsible" parenting in our society. Obvious when watching that it was first a play, but it's not to the film's detriment; one room, four actors, and one central problem to resolve: which child should be blamed for a playground fight that left one of the two with a dental bill in the several thousands. Great because of the way the focus shifts from character to character, a real "L'enfer, c'est les autres," a la Sartre ("Huis Clos," usually translated to "No Exit" in English), as each one is pressed for their role/responsibilty in the situation. The ending, unfortunately, doesn't really resolve anything, but this is perhaps the point of the script: this is the most likely endpoint in a litigious, moral relativist society. Great acting, and very short, which helps you stay within its close quarters. Good work from Polanski, who I'm still barely acquainted with... I'll definitely watch more of his films.
Matthew S

Super Reviewer

May 15, 2012
For these four parents, this is hell. In a movie that lasts 80 minutes, we witness an 80-minute-long scene where politeness and courtesy clash with tribal loyalty and the pursuit of truth. One mother (Foster) believes in community and civility on paper, but in practice she is the one in the room that is furthest from these ideals and yet has deceived herself into thinking she is the shining example. Kate Winslet's character tries very hard to avoid conflict and suffers from a ceaseless need for approval. Her cold, hot-shot husband is a philosopher king like Socrates, asking broad questions that try to establish or at least mock others' perceptions. The husband of Foster's character is no match but lucks-out as the two men often agree and share similar appreciation in drink and cigars. Power is passed around these four like a game of hot potato until eventually everyone gets hurt and no one wants to play anymore. The contrast between their composure at the beginning and the end is comically fascinating and warranted a second viewing, and this is required if you want to catch what really happens between their kids in the opening and closing shots.
Mark H

Super Reviewer

November 20, 2011
Eavesdropping on the intimate conversation of these four acting greats is worth a look, To say the movie is stagy is to miss the point. It's supposed to be a claustrophobic, pressure cooker in a tastefully decorated living room. However this is the sort of production that benefits from the immediacy of a live performance. A theatrical film makes demands on the viewer that actually hurt the story's theater roots. These sorts of intellectual pieces unfold much better on a small TV screen where the sitcom like setup is more enjoyable. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is an obvious inspiration. Carnage is interesting, but the script doesn't achieve anything close to the truly biting commentary of that classic. We keep waiting for a defining moment that never arrives and ultimately has nothing really profound to say. At least these actors ensure that things are always entertaining. The disintegration of the cordial facades of the bourgeoisie into chaos is still a consistent watch
FiLmCrAzY
FiLmCrAzY

Super Reviewer

April 27, 2012
I really wanted to watch this movie and now that i've seen it i am not disappointed!
Its going to be a Marmite kind of film, your either going to Hate it with a passion or just absolutely Love it !
Me personally i Loved it! I thought it was original, written extremely well, it was acted beautifully which isn't a shock when its such a great cast! Its nice to see that Polanski has done one better than Ghost Writer as that was a truly dreadful movie!
Its made beautifully and it sticks to the true form of being a play, which is great!
Its Just a good movie that is thoroughly enjoyable and i just loved the ending a true play form which i loved!
LWOODS04
LWOODS04

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2011
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, Elvis Polanski, Eliot Berger

Director: Roman Polanski

Summary: In this comic drama from director Roman Polanski, two sets of parents meet in the aftermath of an incident in which one of their children bullied the other. As the evening progresses, the adults confront each other in increasingly hostile ways.


My Thoughts: "The film works. I know some will hate it or love it, I happen to be one that enjoyed it. It's a funny film. It starts out being about their sons playground brawl, but it soon insues into madness when the conversations start getting personal and honest. They soon start verbally attacking one other, but also each others marriages as well as their own and one anothers parenting. It's a conversation you don't want to miss. The acting is great and has to be considering its set in one place. I wouldn't mind seeing it again."
Mark W

Super Reviewer

March 29, 2012
"God Of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza was originally a stage play that featured on Broadway, with such talented performers as James Gandolfini, Jeff Daniels, Marcia Gay Harden and Hope Davis. Supposedly, it was quite a powerful piece, so Roman Polanski always had his work cut out in adapting it for the screen.
Alan and Nancy Cowan (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) pay a visit to Michael and Penelope Longstreet (John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster) to discuss an upsetting schoolyard incident in which the first couple's son has beat up the other's. These four intelligent adults, hope they can resolve their differences with a positive approach and teach their children about responsibility, instead of resorting to physical or verbal abuse. However, things don't quite work out that way.
Having not seen or read the play, my experience of this is based solely on Polanski's version. He has been criticised for not capturing the claustrophobia of the play but I have to say that the film really worked for me. There is obvious tensions between the characters and with nowhere for them to go but to sit around a cramped apartment, talking through their differences, the tension builds admirably. Granted, it wasn't as intense as I was expecting but what it did have (that I wasn't expecting) was a lot of humour. This is mainly down to four joyful performances. Throughout their (intended) cordial meeting, each character displays their viewpoints. In the beginning, they're subtle but as tempers begin to fray, they get more vicious with their barrage of abuse towards one another. The conduct of their behaviour often reflects their chosen professions. Foster is an aspiring writer, choosing her words carefully; Waltz is a high profile attorney who jumps on her every word; Winslet the frustrated housewife and Reilly, a low-key salesman finding himself the go-between during the escalating discomfort. Each one of the four actors put in fine performances but Reilly and Waltz are the particular standouts. Polanski himself, doesn't have to do much but allow his actors to take charge of their roles. And that they do.
Capturing claustrophobic situations and heightened tensions between his characters is a notable gift that Polanski has shown throughout his films. The most notable comparison (also based on a stage play) is "Death And The Maiden". So, that being said, it's surprising that he was criticised for a lack of it here. If you go into this expecting humour then you won't be disappointed and it's always a bonus that the actual playwright contributes with the screenplay also.
A finely tuned chamber piece that delivers a real sense of uncomfortable cordiality. The characters are identifiable and the actors deliver with aplomb.
familiar s

Super Reviewer

March 20, 2012
I don't see much of an option on how to wrap it up. It'd to stop at one point than another. But Polanski manages to pull it off reasonably well. Being armed with fine actors does help. However, Kate & Jodie do get totally theatrical towards the end. It's too apparent how unreal the act is when the camera focuses on Kate's face (close-up) on her outburst at the end. Outburst may not be the right word for the movie is full of it, but that's what coming to mind right now. Other than that, it works as a time pass. If you're not anti-Polanski, it's worth a shot. It's not the usual Polanski flick, though. A bit Woody, maybe, but it's easy to find many of the genre. Too easy. I'm an exception for the time being, though. But I'm sure there are many. Take that one, for instance. Or that one. Anyone that you prefer. Okay, wrapping it up. Hope you'd be able to laugh off the childishness.
Ken S

Super Reviewer

March 27, 2012
Great performances and defiantly funny, but it feel like it's missing something.
Like an ending maybe.
Spencer S

Super Reviewer

October 18, 2011
It played out exactly how I thought it would go. This "comedy" is based on the play "God of Carnage" and was directed by the enigmatic Roman Polanski. The film has the same parameters of a play, including a small cast of characters and keeping within a small space, which is an apartment in this film. The plot is simple, and anyone can tell you nothing much happens except that four parents talk about the semantics of their two children's fight in a park. Things do in fact happen, as the foursome escalates gradually from people with quiet dispositions and forced humility, to brooding, fighting children. That seems to be the entire pretense of this very short film: the creative deconstruction of four people who have liberal values, care about political correctness, and are trying to be courteous to one another. Then, everything starts breaking down, as one husband reveals his mollifying, petty side, while the other is a hypocritical, philosophical man with as much apathy as a Goth contender. Meanwhile the wives are counterintuitive, slighting, and suspicious of one another. One seems to be the high moral type with a far tilt towards obsession for her son, while the other tries for acrimony amongst the fray. What it really comes down to, is that the film turns these people, possibly masked by insecurity and bias for their children, and gets them fighting as social rejects. They form alliances, and not just with their spouses, and fall into name calling, and poking fun at one another's expense as often as possible. Their situation mirrors that of their children, and possibly sheds light on people's weaknesses. At the end I wasn't quite sure if they were in fact the slags they claimed to be, or if they each had marriages on the brink of crumbling, but as a character study, and a chance to show the slights of adults deforming into juvenile tantrums, I was enthralled. The four actors chosen were brilliant, and I wouldn't have changed anything about this predicament. The ending was abrupt, but not out of place. Still, it certainly was not a comedy by any means, unless senseless indecency and reckless abandon are your cup of tea. It really made me uncomfortable, and was slow and methodical throughout. Not my kind of film, but definitely not lacking. Loved the direction, and the simplicity, and I do recommend it outright.
Lewis C

Super Reviewer

March 26, 2012
Interesting movie with a great cast, but more than anything else, it made me want to see the play that it's based on.
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