wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)

quick review:

Roman Polanski Carnage is a thoroughly enjoyable film set completely within the confines of a New York apartment. Witty, insightful writing and an exceptionally talented cast turn a perfectly normal social situation into something that might resemble what the title of the film implies. In attempting to solve a squabble between children, sometimes one can’t help feel that perhaps adults can be worse. Yes, there are Oscar winners in theatres currently, but this one isn’t half bad.

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Director: Roman Polanski
Running time: 80 minutes
Categories: World Cinema
Genres: Comedy, Social
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Roman Polanski’s latest offering, Carnage, based on a play by Yasmina Reza, is a unique film. Unique, because unlike almost every other film that has ever been made, the entire film (apart from the opening and closing credits) plays out in real time. So, the 80 minutes that you spend in the cinema equals the 80 minutes that the stellar cast spend with each other in the film. What makes Carnage such a delight are the sharp dialogues, delivered finely that together will plaster a silly smirk on your face through the film, provided you pay attention.

A perfectly innocuous (if a little violent) fight between two kids in a New York neighborhood is escalated to their parents. The parents being, well, ‘parents’, attempt to resolve the issue in a more ‘mature’ manner, trying to talk it out between themselves. So, the Longstreets, played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly call the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) over to their home.

Over coffee, cobbler and eventually, scotch, all facades are quite ungracefully pulled down as each couple’s relationship unravels at the seams, and each character’s quirks begin to surface in a rather ‘dramedic’ manner (if I may coin a word.) What is marvelous is the way one rarely ever feels a sense of discontinuity in the proceedings. It is hard to believe that this film was shot as a ‘film’ and not as a continuous one-act play in a multi-cam setup. Perhaps the only thing that really gives it away visually is the changing colour of Kate Winslet’s lipstick.

Over the course of the film, everything, from pseudo-political ideology to gender stereotypes, is discussed through the characters. What is interesting to note is how certain situations cause certain people to group together irrespective of how much they dislike each others’ personalities. Carnage is, in that sense, a perfect study of urban human behavior.

The film is made so watchable because the actors are made to pump in credibility into their parts like few ever do. Jodie Foster is incredible as the seemingly mature aspiring writer with a soft corner for the sufferers of the atrocities in Darfur. Her character has a strange graph through the film, and though she goes from being the most level-headed to being the most hyperactive within seconds, she deserves full marks for making it look natural. Even in her level-headedness, one could easily make out what exactly was bubbling under the surface.

John C. Reilly as her hardware store owner husband is perhaps the weakest of the cast, but is still competent as the typical man who believes problems between men should be sorted the way ‘men solve problems’.

Kate Winslet plays the career woman who is forced to look into domestic problems because her husband is too indifferent towards these matters and ‘expects’ her to take care of it. Like Jodie Foster’s character, hers also has a see-sawing graph which requires an immense understanding of the art of ‘being’ a character. Needless to say, Winslet excels.

My personal favourite in the film is the immensely talented Christoph Waltz as the BlackBerry addict attorney who is forced to be a part of the proceedings because he is the ‘father’ of one of the children involved. His BlackBerry seems to buzz at precisely the moment it shouldn’t, and every single time, his response to it, though the same, is priceless.

While the title Carnage makes it sound more like an “I’m Duke Nukem, I’m gonna blast the beep out of your beep” film, the carnage here is more metaphysical. A classic character study, it is insightful, quirky and immensely entertaining. Though not necessarily a big screen watch in terms of visuals, Carnage is a film ideally enjoyed in a crowd. It is a real pity that the crowds are clearly not flocking to the theatres for this one.

This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

This film is best enjoyed just by adults

  • Violence: One scene involving violence between children. The same is talked about through the film.
  • Language: Use of expletives by the adults.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Some of the characters reveal their underclothes, but not in a sexual manner.
  • Concept: Four adults ‘attempting’ to solve a problem in a mature manner.
  • General Look and Feel: Set completely in a New York apartment, the film feels entirely real and incidental.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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Carnage - Cast, crew, links

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Running time:
80 minutes

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