Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Review: Carnage

Rating: 15
Duration: 80 mins

Carnage is the latest film directed by ever-so-slightly controversial filmmaker, Roman Polanski, that's based on the 2006 play by Yasmina Reza, with who he has teamed up with to adapt into the screenplay. Originally set in Brooklyn, the film is filmed in France (due to Polanski's US criminal convictions), it retains the illusion of an American setting, yet has a slightly European aesthetic to it as well.

Essentially it's a situational comedy in its purest form and is only 80 minutes long, which initially seems like a more-than-manageable duration. The story focuses on two sets of parents who set up a meeting to discuss the conflict between their bickering sons, culminating in one of them cracking the other over the head with a branch. On the 'victim's' side are the somewhat traditional, working-class, Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael (John C. Reilly), whose world collides with the fast-paced, high-powered lives of Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan (Christoph Waltz), as the discussion of their offspring's altercation ends up in a childish battle of pride and self preservation. 

From the moment we are introduced to the parental characters, the script maintains a witty and snappy pace that, on the surface, comes across as a dramatic piece with subtle comedic undertones: mannerisms, facial expression and body language gradually become more overt as their squabbles and point-scoring become more juvenile. 

The majority of the short film flows smoothly as the script is well paced, snappy and charming with its entertainment. However, as it turns out it could have, and probably should have, shaved 15 minutes off the end, as the final few scenes tend to stutter a little and runs out of steam in comparison to the rest. That said, the film is a whimsical experience and as the interaction heats up, we begin to see the personalities and diversity of each character displaying their traits, as the rounds of scotch flow, everyone becomes more opinionated and much more honest in their opinion. 

Each of the four main characters are strong, with Waltz perhaps being the most alluring with his effortless charisma, but everyone - in one way or another - contributes something different that equates to a solid exploration of situational comedy that is wholly amusing.

This isn't a typical film you'd associate with Polanski, having recently made films such as The Pianist and The Ghost, as entering the comedy route after the aforementioned dramas is a complete change of pace for him. With his years of experience, he competently, if not dazzlingly directs this bare-bones piece in a straightforward manner, and rightly so considering the anecdotal context.

VERDICT: Carnage is a solid collaborative effort and a sharp and intelligently produced adaptation, even if it does falter towards the final push. Polanski creates a humble film that exudes a Europeanness (specifically in its opening and closing), whilst retaining a slice of intended Americana.