Carnage is one of the funniest and most intelligent films of the year so far. It is also joyously subversive of political correctness. The only explanation why this has been ignored for this year’s Oscars must be that it is very much a filmed stage play.

It’s based on Yasmina Reza’s black comedy God Of Carnage, and takes place almost entirely in real time, within one apartment. But, as in Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby, director Roman Polanski shows brilliantly how character can disintegrate in a confined space.
This time, there are three people falling apart, and four fine actors deliver performances that will long stick in the mind.

Jodie Foster is a bundle of suppressed fury as Penelope, a pious writer of impeccable liberalism — her forthcoming tome is about the carnage in Darfur.

She and her husband, Michael (John C. Reilly), a down-to-earth hardware salesman, have arranged a meeting with the parents of a boy who has beaten up their child, knocking out two of his teeth.

The visiting couple are Nancy, a high-flying broker (Kate Winslet) who’s icily polite and impeccably turned out, and Alan (Christoph Waltz), an amoral lawyer addicted to his mobile phone.

All four pride themselves on being civilised, fair-minded and bent on reconciliation, but they bring out the worst in each other, so that by the end — fuelled by scotch — there’s a large amount of drunken truth-telling.