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Roman Polanski's 'Carnage': What the Critics Say

Roman Polanski’s ‘Carnage’
Toronto Film Festival

The film made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 1 and will hit U.S. theaters on Dec. 16.

Early reviews have begun popping up on the Internet for Roman Polanski’s Carnage, which made its world premiere at the 68th annual Venice Film Festival.

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The film, which features an ensemble cast of Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz, is an adaptation the Yasmina Reza’s play, God of Carnage. It is set to open the New York Film Festival on Sept. 30 and will hit U.S. theaters nationwide on Dec. 16.

Carnage has received generally positive reviews thus far, with critics praising Polanski’s comedic drama, which features two sets of New York parents as they attempt to engage in a civil meeting after their sons are involved in a brawl.

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The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy writes, “Roman Polanski has often been at his best in close quarters -- the small yacht ofKnife in the Water, the Warsaw ghetto of The Pianist, the house in The Ghost Writer, the apartments in Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant -- so it should be no surprise that he's right at home examining the venality of the human condition in the living room of the Brooklyn apartment that serves as the setting for Carnage.”

“Snappy, nasty, deftly acted and perhaps the fastest paced film ever directed by a 78-year-old, this adaptation of Yasmina Reza's award-winning play God of Carnage fully delivers the laughs and savagery of the stage piece while entirely convincing as having been shot in New York, even though it was filmed in Paris for well-known reasons,” he continues, referring to the 1977 sexual abuse case still looming over the director’s head.

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The film scores a C+ with IndieWire, though the reviewer notes, “It’s been a while since Polanski’s done an out-and-out comedy (unless you count Pierce Brosnan‘s performance in “The Ghost Writer”—oh, snap!), and the good news is that “Carnage” is very, very funny. The play brought down houses around the world, and the director and his cast hit every beat with expert timing; there are moments here that rival anything we’ve seen in recent years for hilarity. There’s often a darkly funny undertone to Polanski’s work, but this reinforces that he’s got a real knack for comedy, for perhaps the first time since “Fearless Vampire Killers,” and we hope he doesn’t neglect that particular muscle from here on out.”

Lee Marshall of The London Evening Standard makes reference to the film’s original roots, saying, “Little attempt is made to disguise the fact that this is the film of a play. And the dramatic gears grind a little during certain shifts of allegiance along couple and gender lines. But making the audience feel claustrophobic is central to Carnage's method: we're penned in, unable to leave this airless apartment with its collection of liberal gewgaws from component hi-fi to African totems to real logs (presumably never used) stacked by the marble fireplace.”

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“The film also celebrates an old-fashioned, underrated cinematic pleasure: the chance to see an ensemble cast of fine actors sparring with each other, and at the top of their game,” he adds.

The Guardian’s Xan Brooks also praises Polanski’s work, while offering just a touch of criticism.

“His direction is precise, unfussy and utterly fit for purpose, prowling the four walls of an apartment that was entirely constructed on a Paris soundstage and allowing the action to play out in real time, with no respite. If Carnage has a flaw, it could be that Polanski's apparent sympathy for Alan at times threatens to throw out the film's delicate, four-way balance. Arguably, it does turn a shade too shrill – and therefore too obviously farcical – in the final stretch, once the alcohol has been brought out and the mobile phone dumped in the vase of water,” he says. “That aside, the film barely puts a foot wrong. The acting comes at full throttle while the pacing cranks up the tension in agonizing, incremental degrees.”