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

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones