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Two sets of parents meet to discuss their sons' involvement in a schoolyard fight. The meeting quickly becomes an argument in which the parents attack each other's parenting skills and expose problems in their marriages.
For more about Carnage and the Carnage Blu-ray release, see Carnage Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly
Director: Roman Polanski
» See full cast & crew
Carnage Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 9, 2012
I don't like that attitude of yours.
A little fight goes a long way. In Director Roman Polanski's (The Ghost Writer) Carnage, it goes about eighty deliciously fun minutes of quirky misbehavior, breakdowns, and a whole lot of the awful truth that's a result of one childhood fight and four adults left to quibble over it during an afternoon from hell. The film stars Jodie Foster (The Beaver), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), and Kate Winslet (Titanic) as the parents of two schoolchildren who land in an altercation and who come together to deal with the aftermath, only to engage in numerous squabbles and disagreements and outright hatred and mean-spiritedness that develop during what should be a mostly cordial and levelheaded meeting of the adult minds. The film goes to show that, maybe, people never grow up, or perhaps that differences of opinion and the voicing thereof simply reflect the realities of human nature. Or perhaps it's just meant to be an entertaining little diversion, a simple picture made of great performances of people whose attitudes, allegiances, courtesies, tact, and even dignities fall by the wayside when raw emotion and high tensions supersede common sense.
There's trouble on the playground. When young Ethan is walloped real good by young Zachary, the victim comes home with a couple of busted teeth, nerve damage, and some bruising. In their apartment, Ethan's parents, Michael and Penelope Longstreet (Reilly and Foster), write an e-mail describing the incident -- in the presence of Zachary's parents, Alan and Nancy Cowan (Waltz and Winslet), who have come over for a face-to-face discussion about the incident. They disagree on the wording of the e-mail, but seem otherwise polite in the presence of one another, considering the circumstances. Coffee and cobbler are served, discussions on the fight morph into discussions of life, and the couples seem amiable at the very least, if not somewhat awkward in one another's presence. For a multitude of reasons, the Cowan's can't get away. The discussion turns to aimless chitchat and more personal matters, such as Michael's abandonment of a hamster and the cobbler's secret recipe. Alan's cell phone is a constant source of interruption, an interruption of which Nancy quietly, at first, disapproves. The cordial visit slowly grows nasty, taking a turn for the worst when Nancy inadvertently ruins several of Penelope's treasured coffee table books. As the afternoon drags on and as various circumstances arise and verbal jousting turns into outright meanness, the couples find themselves unable to escape the presence of the other, all the while personal, deeply-held truths rise to the surface, threatening not only the acquaintances, but the couples' own stability.
Polanski's Carnage, based on Yasmina Reza's stage production God of Carnage, reflects its stage play roots and translates remarkably well to film. For what is (mostly) a one-set show -- with the living room comprising the vast majority of the film and only brief views of a kitchen, a bathroom, a hallway, and bookend exteriors stealing time from the primary location -- the film must rely on its character dynamics and story to carry the film, which they do with ease. In fact, it's more the characters than the story, really, that shape the film. The "your son smacked around our son" plot mostly serves as a framework through which the metaphorical fireworks may explode through the course of the film. Polanski keeps the film nice and tight, playing through a relatively short and skippy and sweet runtime, the picture hanging on just long enough to show the power of words and the fallibility of the people who speak them, to show what can result when sometimes casual, sometimes well-meaning, sometimes clandestinely spiteful, sometimes openly hostile dialogue all can quickly spiral out of control or out of context. The entire picture is one big fray of intentional and unintentional leading words and actions that yield all sorts of intended and unintended consequences alike, with pretty much everything but something resembling the physical confrontation that started it all playing out during the course of an afternoon visit gone terribly awry.
Some of those actions include long-held frustrations and observations bubbling out onto the surface. Veins pop, tempers flare, voices rise, and physical objects and bodily waste are tossed hither and thither and yon. Yet for all of the verbal violence, the picture proves mostly quirky and slyly entertaining. It doesn't seem like watching four intelligent adults sniping at one another like little children would be a good way to spend eighty minutes, but it's actually both intriguing and comical at the same time. The characters' devolution to whatever it is they devolve into comes remarkably natural. The air of hostility and the tension that's so thick-it-could-be-cut-with-the-metaphorical-knife hang over the movie even in its earliest shots before things really get out of control, when only the "I don't want to be here" and "I don't want them here" and "I wish this hand't happened" and "I need to get out of here" vibes are only festering on the inside, not exploding on the outside. The back-and-forths are truly fantastic, and the way the movie works in otherwise innocent little things that blow up into sources of contention -- a small childhood animal, pet names -- is the real attraction here. And isn't that how things always work? It's not always the big overreaching things but the smallest little differences, the things that grate on the nerves the most, the things that really stir in the gut that are always the source of interpersonal conflict. The actors are fantastic, really capturing the meanness and the gradual descent into near madness with uncanny precision while getting the timing and facial expressions and subtleties of the characters down just right.
Carnage Blu-ray, Video Quality
Carnage features another brilliant 1080p Blu-ray transfer from Sony. To be sure, the image appears a hair dark, the brightness turned ever-so-slightly downward, a stylistic decision that suits the movie's story quite well. Color balance is excellent, even if bright shades are hard to come by. The yellow tulips represent the only real brilliant shading here. Clothes are rather dark; even Michael's sweater is a darker maroon rather than a bright red. The interior of the apartment features mostly white and off-white colors, accented by various wooden surfaces. Detailing is superb. Facial textures are complex, so much so that every popping vein appears clearly and distinctly. Clothing textures are natural, ditto wood grains. The image is naturally sharp and very clear, accentuated by a light but critical grain structure, and only a handful of shots appear in the least bit soft. There is no evidence of banding, blocking, or other unwanted eyesores. Carnage plays as expected of a Sony title, a brilliant transfer that replicates the filmmakers' intent and captures that cinematic flavor with near flawless precision.
Carnage Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Carnage debuts on Blu-ray with a high quality DTS-HD MA 5.0 lossless soundtrack. Yes, there's no subwoofer channel here, but the truth is that Carnage plays like a Woody Allen film, reflecting something of a stage presence that's made almost entirely of dialogue and that doesn't necessarily need a kicking low end -- or a low end, period -- to make the movie work. Still, listeners might be surprised at the positive, full-bodied feel the opening title music serves. There's a positive, hefty, even potent drum line that sounds remarkably good given the absence of subwoofer support. Music enjoys a fine air of spaciousness and solid crispness and clarity. A few location-specific sound effects play nicely off to the side, for instance the whirring of the Espresso machine or the slight passing rumble of the elevated train heard outside the apartment after a window has been opened. Despite these scattered effects and music, Carnage is primarily a dialogue-driven film. The spoken word enjoys that crisp clarity and realistic tenor listeners have come to expect from new release films, and Sony discs in particular. This track won't dazzle the aural senses, but it's a pleasant experience that serves the movie well.
Carnage Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Carnage contains several extras, including a lengthy Q&A piece with Actors Reilly and Waltz.
Carnage Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Carnage is a devilishly fun little venture about adults acting like children when they confront one another over their children acting like children. It's something of a crude yet alluring voyeuristic glimpse into the deepest, darkest secrets of people the audience doesn't really know, but comes to understand through the course of the movie. It's amazing how much can be laid on the table in about 80 minutes, particularly in the company of strangers. The performances are superb and Polanski keeps the movie rolling even as it stays, basically, on one cramped set. Carnage is different to say the least, a good kind of different and a quality Comedy/Drama mixture that should appeal to a wide fan base. Sony's Blu-ray release of Carnage features standout video and solid audio, but the supplements are disappointingly few. Still, this release comes recommended.
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Carnage Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Carnage Blu-ray - February 6, 2012
In March, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will bring Carnage to Blu-ray. Director Roman Polanski's screen adaptation of the Yasmina Reza stageplay, this blackly comic examination of upper-class privilege and hypocrisy watches as the initially civil discourse ...
• Two Roman Polanski Titles Headed for Blu-ray - January 9, 2012
With two early retail announcements, Paramount and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have indicated plans to bring Roman Polanski's Chinatown as well as his Carnage to Blu-ray. Paramount's Chinatown finds Polanski paying homage to Hollywood's great film noirs, ...
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