Carnage, Roman Polanski, 79 Mins (15)
Young Adult, Jason Reitman, 90 Mins (15)

Great cast but the plot needs a slap: who vomits on your coffee table then stays for a chat?

What would you do if somebody thumped your child? It's fiction's big question at the moment, one that's been asked in an award-winning novel, Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap, an award-winning film, Susanne Bier's In a Better World, and an award-winning play, Yasmina Reza's The God of Carnage, which has now been made into a film by Roman Polanski. Renamed Carnage, and relocated from Paris to New York, it all takes place one afternoon shortly after the son of Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz has whacked the son of Jodie Foster and John C Reilly around the head with a stick. The grown-ups pride themselves on being impeccably civilised, so they get together in Foster and Reilly's tasteful Brooklyn apartment to weigh up what should be done.

The film begins as an exquisite comedy of manners, in which the characters pick and prod at each other, while keeping the smiles glued to their faces. Foster's controlled aggression is a joy, even when she's defending her recipe for apple-and-pear cake, but it's unfair to single her out. The actors all adjust their moods so subtly that I changed my mind every 30 seconds about which one of them was the true star of the film. It may be an uncinematic chamber piece, with little more movement than there was in the stage play, but when you've got such surgically precise performances and dialogue, it doesn't matter that the action consists of four people talking in a flat.

So much for the first half-hour. Unfortunately, Carnage plummets soon afterwards when the characters start letting out their innermost feelings – and one of them lets out a lot more besides. The notorious vomiting scene is the film's dramatic peak, so it's quite puzzling that it arrives so quickly. Once it's over and done with, the conversation veers off in all sorts of less interesting directions, before fizzling out altogether.

Maybe something has been lost in translation. Carnage is billed as a Spanish-Polish-German-French production, which could be why its New Yorkers don't ring true, but the contrivances we might forgive in a theatre are impossible to get past in a film. Would any woman throw up over two near-strangers' coffee table, and then hang around in the same room chatting? Would a corporate lawyer with a potentially ruinous scandal on his hands stay in the room with her, rather than sprint back to his office? Would he discuss the scandal on his mobile for everyone to hear? And would all of these uptight characters suddenly share their deepest, darkest opinions on marriage and morality? I don't buy it. Polanski and Reza have made a sly black comedy about people who keep their emotions in check, followed by a silly farce about people who do the opposite.

The events of Chronicle are far easier to believe – and they involve three teenage boys gaining telekinetic powers when they touch a glowing, star-shaped meteorite. In essence, it's a superhero movie, but one set in something like the real world: instead of donning tights and capes and fighting crime, the boys use their new abilities to play pranks and impress the girls at the school talent show.

They also record their stunts on a video camera through which we see all the action. In the wake of Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity et al, the we-filmed-it-ourselves gimmick is already stale, but it certainly deepens the impression that we're watching ordinary high-schoolers who just happen to have extraordinary powers. It also makes those powers seem even more fantastic. It's all very well when one of the X-Men throws a stone using nothing but his brainwaves, but when you see the same thing happening in the middle distance, shot from one angle, while a teenager whoops with exhilaration, you might be tempted to do some whooping yourself.

Not that Chronicle stays quite so low-key throughout. After one of the boys uses his powers in less innocuous ways, the story revs up to a thunderous climactic battle as spectacular as anything in the Spider-Man movies, but which keeps to the grungy, indie feel of the rest of the film. It's a thrilling and inventive yet poignant debut from Josh Trank and his screenwriter, Max Landis, who may yet match the genre-twisting of his father, John.

 

Next Week

Nicholas Barber dresses up right for the return of The Muppets

Film Choice

George Clooney tussles with fatherhood, family, and the anguish of living in Hawaii, in Alexander Payne's elegantly heart-wrenching The Descendants. Elsewhere, the nomadic literary great, W G Sebald, is paid elegant tribute in Grant Gee's teasing essay-doc Patience (After Sebald), exploring the East Anglian landscape, life, and loss.

Also showing (05/02/2012)

Man on a Ledge (102 mins, 12A)

Sam Worthington perches on a hotel ledge, 20 storeys above Manhattan, to divert attention from the diamond heist being carried out across the road by his brother, Jamie Bell. Yes, it's completely ludicrous, but it's energetic enough to keep you watching.

 

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (94 mins, PG)

Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine star in a fast-paced children's adventure full of giant monsters and good jokes. Parents might be pleased that it's the heroes' encyclopedic knowledge that wins the day as opposed to the customary brute strength and ignorance.

 

Bombay Beach (80 mins, 15)

Part candid documentary, part video artwork, Bombay Beach explores a Californian desert community which could have been created for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. It's setting is a slum town where the sand dunes are strewn with dead fish and other corpses – a nearby salt lake is receding – and the locals are listless, shirtless rednecks on Ritalin and moonshine. As grim as it is, the film is also surprisingly beautiful and tentatively hopeful.

Nicholas Barber

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?