Carnage Review
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Whether you grew up in the city or the suburbs, you probably know a thing or two about life on the playground. On the playground, friendships grow and break down again in a matter of hours. Alliances are formed and broken. And, every once in a while, things get nasty.

Fortunately, things change as we get older, right? We become more civilized, more rational. And we’re able to handle things like grown-ups. Or at least that’s what two pairs of parents attempt to do in Roman Polanski’s Carnage.

After their eleven-year-old sons are involved in a playground fight, the Cowans and the Longstreets meet to discuss the situation and work through it like adults. After drafting a document about the incident, the four of them sit down for a friendly cup of coffee. But their awkward attempt at neighborly conversation quickly spirals out of control as their real personalities come out—and alliances are formed and broken down quicker than they are on any playground.

Based on a play by Yasmina Reza, Carnage is an extremely simple film—just four characters in one small apartment, their polite façade gradually crumbling over the course of a short, 80-minute conversation. With so little action—and so few distractions—you might expect it to drag. But the small cast generally manages to make these strong characters, their different perspectives, and their wildly swinging emotions absolutely fascinating.

The four characters offer a wonderful mash-up of diverse personalities—which the award-winning stars accentuate with robust performances. Christoph Waltz shines as Alan Cowan, a preoccupied lawyer who’s obviously more devoted to his job than he is to his wife or their unruly son. In the times when he’s not taking business calls on his ubiquitous BlackBerry, he often faces off against Jodie Foster’s snippy, self-righteous Penelope Longstreet, whose coldly polite demeanor quickly collapses.

But Alan and Penelope aren’t the only two adversaries in the room. At one point or another, it seems that each person sides with one of the others, only to change alliances in the next breath. Kate Winslet’s cool Nancy Cowan battles both the Longstreets and her own husband as she tries to defend her marriage, her parenting, and her son. And even John C. Reilly’s easygoing, accommodating Michael Longstreet finally snaps when he’s confronted about his treatment of his daughter’s beloved pet.

In the end, Carnage definitely lives up to its title, with an attempt at mature conflict resolution quickly turning into a verbal massacre that makes playground justice seem like, well, child’s play. Sharply witty and delightfully over-played, it’s a simply entertaining train wreck of a film.

DVD Review:
The four talented stars of Roman Polanski’s Carnage helped to make it the sharp and entertaining film that it is—and you’ll get much more of them on the film’s DVD release.

The special features menu includes a few extras—most of which focus on the cast. In the super-short On the Red Carpet, the cast, crew, and various others discuss the film and the philosophy behind it while walking the red carpet at the film’s premiere. The cast members then go on to discuss the film in a little more depth in the slightly longer Actors’ Notes. Here, you’ll hear a little more about the filmmaking process—and about working with a renowned director like Polanski.

For the most in-depth discussion of the film, though, you’ll want to watch An Evening with John C. Reilly & Christoph Waltz, an amusing half-hour interview with the two male leads, who offer all kinds of interesting little behind-the-scenes tidbits. Both stars are likeable and easy-going and entertaining—with great rapport—making it a fun feature to watch.

Whether you have just a few minutes or a full hour to spare, be sure to take a look at one or two of the extras on the Carnage DVD release. No matter which one you choose, you’re sure to learn something new about this captivating little film.

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