Based on the play “God of Carnage,” Carnage opens up with a scene of a boy who hits a friend with a stick, causing him to lose two teeth.
Subsequently, the parents of the first boy, Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy (Kate Winslet), visit the parents of the victim, Michael (John C. Reilly) and Penelope (Jodie Foster), to talk about the incident. Starting off as diplomatic adults who want the matter behind them, the couples are civilized in dealing with each other. However, as the meeting gets interrupted many times by urgent phone calls that Alan receives regarding his job as a lawyer, and both couples start to slip up, the tensions start to rise. The polite discussion soon escalates into verbal warfare, with all four parents showing their true colors. No one escapes the carnage.
The premise of Carnage is very interesting. The transition from the civilized conversation with which the movie starts to the carnage with which it ends happens very smoothly, in a logical manner. Watching the level of civility plummet in front of your eyes is what Carnage is all about. And it does so brilliantly. The fissures in each couple’s marriage is revealed. Allegiances will shift back and forth many times, never settling. Keep in mind the movie is only 80 minutes and it happens in the same place: Michael and Penelope’s living room and the hallway outside their Manhattan apartment.
The performances by all four actors and actresses are what drive the movie forward. In a way, the premise of the plot is not ground-breaking. It might as well have been taken straight out of a PTA meeting. But the way the acting ensemble interacts with each other and with the material they are given helps propel Carnage forward immensely. Jodie Foster is great as the pinched liberal who wants to get her apology out of the other parents. Kate Winslet is marvelous, as usual, as the woman trying to keep her manners while boiling on the inside. The men, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, are also brilliant as the total counterpart of their women. What makes thei You’d wonder, at points, how a certain mixture of characters came to be together and actually married.
Carnage is a memorable movie but it’s not one that will leave you dumbfounded after it ends. It will entertain you during its duration. Roman Polanski manages the movie at a fast pace, never letting it get dull or redundant. The fact that all of the events take place in that same room for the whole of the movie’s duration only exemplifies how great Polanski is in directing Carnage and setting up the staging. The ultimate message the movie presents is that good manners are often shallow and that compassion, especially when it comes to one’s children, is very hard to come by. When it comes to one’s children, regardless of how messed up they might be, your children are in the right and the other couple’s children are in the wrong. That’s how it will always be. Carnage exemplifies that.