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Blu-ray Review Carnage Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Richard Gallagher

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Rich Gallagher

Lest there be any misapprehension, Carnage is not an action-packed adventure film. The blood-letting in Roman Polanski's latest film is emotional and psychological. It is an intense, claustrophobic and occasionally funny drama which decidedly is not for every taste. It boasts strong performances by four of the finest actors currently working in the movie industry, and it is a rewarding experience for viewers who appreciate delving into the human condition.






Carnage

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Year: 2011
Rated: R
Program Length: 80 minutes                         
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
Languages: English, French 5.0 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French

The Program

Take a step back and look at the situation we're in. Children suck the life out of you and leave you old and empty. That's the law of nature.

Lest there be any misapprehension, Carnage is not an action-packed adventure film. The blood-letting in Roman Polanski's latest film is emotional and psychological. It is an intense, claustrophobic and occasionally funny drama which decidedly is not for every taste. It boasts strong performances by four of the finest actors currently working in the movie industry, and it is a rewarding experience for viewers who appreciate delving into the human condition.

As the film opens, two schoolboys get into an altercation in a park near the Brooklyn Bridge. One of the boys, Zachary, is holding a stick in his hand when the other boy, Ethan, says something which enrages Zachary. A second later, Ethan falls to the ground after being struck in the face by the stick. Zachary then stalks away, leaving Ethan and several other boys behind.

Polanski then transports us to the apartment of Ethan's parents, Michael (John C. Reilly) and Penelope (Jodie Foster). They have invited Zachary's parents, Alan (Christoph Waltz) and Nancy (Kate Winslet), over to discuss how they should deal with the situation. It immediately becomes apparent that their intention is to resolve the matter amicably. We learn that Michael is a dealer in houseware supplies and Penelope is a published writer. Alan is an attorney whose most important client, a pharmaceutical company, has just come under attack because of claims that its flagship drug causes serious side effects. Nancy, meanwhile, is an investment broker.

Penelope is tightly wound and we gradually come to realize that the meeting was primarily her idea. The first impression of Michael is that he is a genial man who has no interest in confrontation. Alan is constantly interrupted and distracted by cell phone calls which are prompted by his client's crisis. Nancy is protective of her son and is annoyed by her husband's pre-occupation with business matters.

On two occasions Alan and Nancy are ready to leave (and in fact they twice actually step into the hallway outside of the apartment), but both times they find themselves sucked back in. As the drama plays out in real time, we discover that the fracas between the two boys is the least of the issues facing the two couples. The men are inclined to dismiss the stick incident as a case of boys being boys, but Penelope will have none of it and wants assurances that Zachary will take responsiblity for his actions. Nancy is appalled when she learns that Michael turned his daughter's hamster loose in the street. Every time it seems that the issue of the stick incident has been settled, something else comes up to set the two couples to bickering again, As the intensity of the arguing increases, it becomes painfully clear that all four of them have unresolved conflicts within their respective marriages.

Carnage is based upon the play "Le Dieu du Carnage" ("The God of Carnage") by Yasmina Reza, who co-wrote the screenplay with Polanski. Anyone who has been in a marriage will recognize insightful and sometimes painful truths as Michael, Penelope, Alan and Nancy express their frustrations and disappointments. The dialogue is authentic and occasionally witty, and there is not a single false note in the performances. Polanski has done a fine job of adapting the play to the screen, and there is a wonderfully wry ending which requires not a single word of dialogue.

The Video

The 2.35:1 Blu-ray transfer is up to Sony's usual high standards. The image is exceptionally sharp and well-detailed. It appears to be properly framed. Colors and flesh tones are spot-on. Almost all of the action takes place in the apartment's living room, with occasional forays into the kitchen, bathroom and hallway. Polanski uses many different camera angles to help prevent the movie from becoming overly static. There are no magnificent vistas to be seen, but the picture quality is essentially flawless.

The Audio

The lossless 5.0 audio track is, of course, dialogue-driven and every word is clear and understandble. The surround channels are used effectively to reproduce the musical soundtrack and to provide discrete ambient sounds. The audio is not spectacular, but it is everything which it needs to be.

The Supplements

There is no commentary track included with this Blu-ray, but there are some worthwhile and informative extras.

"Actors' Notes" is an 11-minute featurette which gives each member of the cast an opportunity to expound upon the film.

"An Evening With John C. Reilly and Christoph Walz" is a 38-minute interview/Q&A session in which the two actors discuss their respective roles and their experience working with Polanski. Of interest is that fact that Polanski insisted upon rehearsing as if they were doing a stage play instead of a film. The four actors were required to learn the entire script before the first scene was shot. In addition, the scenes were shot chronologically, which enhances of authenticity of how the characters evolve over the course of 80 minutes.

"Carnage on the Red Carpet" is a brief, 3-minute look at the film's premiere in Los Angeles.

The original theatrical trailer is included, as are previews for A Separation; A Dangerous Method; The Skin I Live In; In Darkness; and Footnote.

The Packaging

The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

Fans of Roman Polanski and the four actors will want to see Carnage, although as noted this sort of drama is not for everyone. The film is being marketed as a "biting comedy," but the truth is that it is really a drama with some laughs. The verbal sparring is more witty than funny, and at times it certainly is intense. Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet received well-deserved Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: March 20, 2012
 

 

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