Carnage – Review

Film: Carnage (2011)

Starring: Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz

Directed by: Roman Polanski 

Produced by: Saïd Ben Saïd, Oliver Berben, Martin Moszkowicz

Written by: Roman Polanski, Yasmina Reza (based on the play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza)

Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Running Time: 79 minutes

Rating: R

I finally got a chance to see Carnage, from legendary filmmaker Roman Polanski. I was intrigued by its minimalist plot and its outstanding quartet of actors, which featured Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet, and Christoph Waltz.

The storyline of Carnage — which is based on the play God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza — is not complicated. Nancy and Alan Cowan (Winslet and Waltz) visit Penelope and Michael Longstreet (Foster and Reilly) at their apartment. The Cowans’ son had hit the Longstreets’ son in the face with a stick, knocking out two of his teeth. At first, the meeting seems cordial, as the Cowans come across as sufficiently apologetic and the Longstreets as understanding. But of course, things escalate from there, and each of these four characters reveals their most despicable colors.

Basically the entire film takes place in the Longstreets’ apartment. On several occasions, the Cowans are about to leave but of course end up staying for any number of reasons ranging from espresso coffee and apple-pear cobbler to an argument about whether leaving a hamster in the street constitutes murder. The tension begins with Alan and Penelope, highlighted by a terrific exchange between Waltz and Foster (this is paraphrased):

“Zachary hit your son in the face with a stick –“


Yes, deliberately. You see, this is what really irks me. Why do you have to throw in ‘deliberately’? What kind of lesson are you trying to teach me?”

The animosity between Waltz’s character and Foster’s character was the highlight of the first portion of the film, as Foster portrayed a high strung character who blew things out of proportion, while Waltz played a nihilistic, always-on-the-cell-phone attorney (the hilarity of their arguments was augmented by Alan’s constantly disruptive phone calls that he never hesitated to take). Penelope never quite gets the true apology she wants, and she refuses to address her son’s alleged verbal behavior that induced the act of violence. Alan, meanwhile, really doesn’t care, and thinks he’s a great man just for being there.

Out of all the characters, Michael (Reilly) tries to play the mitigator the longest. Winslet’s character, Nancy, seems to share this approach for a little while but her behavior quickly devolves into her spewing some disgusting things out of her mouth (literally and figuratively). Michael ultimately caves and not only follows suit, but becomes perhaps the most spectacularly despicable character in the entire film.

Once Michael breaks out the 18-year-old scotch, it’s all over. More feuds erupt across and between the couples, and despite their complete unwillingness to be there, the Cowans never manage to leave the Longstreets’ apartment and thus cannot escape the carnage (see what I did there?).

Obviously, Carnage is not a movie with a lot going on. It has one setting and a simple premise, so it therefore requires entertaining characters, sharp dialogue, and talented actors. With seemingly little effort, it succeeds in all three of these areas. Every actor was hilarious. Foster was thoroughly entertaining as the bitter and disenchanted Penelope, Reilly was caustic and darkly hilarious as the cynical Michael, Winslet was priceless as the sick (pun intended) and disrespectful Nancy, and Waltz (of Inglourious Basterds fame) was excellent as the dry and apathetic Alan.

In addition to the fine acting and sharp dialogue, Polanski’s smooth and well-paced direction helped keep the audience entertained throughout. Carnage has a very minimalist plot and consequently lacks the intrigue of fine details, but it squeezes out a crisp and hilarious 79 minutes of great entertainment.

Tommy D’s Score:





3.5/4 Tommy Ds

About Tommy D

Clemson and UGA alum with a market research job in LA. And I kind of like movies.

Posted on January 22, 2012, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Sounds like one of your guilty pleasure movies. I’ll have to see it when it comes out on DVD.

    Thanks for the review.

  1. Pingback: Tommy D’s Top 10 Films of 2011 « Tommy D Talks Movies

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