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Carmine

Carmine is a 2018 psychological horror film directed by Christopher Nolan, produced by Nolan, Emma Thomas and Thomas Mull and written by Jonathan Nolan and starring Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Howard, an old man who has isolated himself after the loss of his wife and children, and is constantly accompanied and, soon enough, protected by a large silver cat.

Plot

A large silver cat escapes from a burning building in which it is pursued by a hidden figure, which it eludes by hiding in a river, where it inexplicably appears able to breathe underwater. The cat continues to the house of a former actor named Carmine Howard, who almost shoots the cat when he mistakes it for an intruder. Carmine tolerates the presence of the cat for several nights, where it repeatedly tries to befriend him, but he continues to keep it outside. As winter comes, Carmine's house is broken into by a psychopath named Mr. Glenn, who holds Carmine at gunpoint, only for the cat to inexplicably find its way into the house in advance and hiss at Mr. Glenn, instilling a crippling fear in Mr. Glenn. The man flees, and the cat calmly returns to where it had been for days, in front of a mystified Carmine. When Carmine tries to approach it, the cat flees and disappears for days, terrified of him.

The cat follows Carmine throughout the next week, where he visits his daughter Harriet, who lives on the other side of town - the cat eavesdrops on the conversation that breaks out between them, in which it is established that Harriet has been divorced for the second time, and she has gone back to working in a library. The cat sees Mr. Glenn again, and the man retreats the instant that the cat appears, clearly still reeling from the confrontation between them. Carmine and his daughter visit an old friend of theirs, John Bespoke, who has returned from Afghanistan after several years of service, and they have a night out which is interrupted when a man named Rodney Royce, who introduces himself when Carmine is alone. Royce explains to him that he wants to make a partnership with Carmine, a documentary about being an acclaimed actor and having his name dragged through the dirt. Royce is rejected, and when he leaves, Carmine is confronted again by the cat, who claws a cross into the table when Carmine goes to the toilet. Carmine is unable to understand what the significance of the cross is, nor are Harriet or Bespoke. Returning home, Harriet finds the exact same cross carved into her wardrobes, and Carmine finds it carved into his door. Mr. Glenn attempts to break into the house a second time, but his hand is burned when he tries to pick the lock and he flees before Carmine can see him.

Carmine has the door replaced, and a gang of boys throws a stone through his window, before running away laughing. At the same time, the cat playfully lures Bespoke's daughter Thalia towards the house and she sees the whole thing, and calls the police. The boys are stopped and arrested, and Carmine's damage is paid for, but Carmine himself is curious to the point of paranoia about the behaviour of the cat, who tries repeatedly to carve a cross into the door again. Carmine threatens the cat each time, and eventually buys a guard dog, but even the dog seems completely unnerved by the cat. Carmine meets Royce again, and accepts because he needs the money, which prompts the cat to hiss maliciously at him when he returns. Royce's son, Finn, joins them when they meet up for the documentary, and it is learned that Carmine had a wife and two daughters of his own who died when a train derailed, and that Carmine quit acting due to depression from that. Harriet comforts him, only to be distracted by Mr. Glenn, who tries to seduce her. Harriet rejects him, and he threatens her with a knife, only for the cat to appear and carve a pointing finger on the driver's-seat door of his car. When Mr. Glenn goes to Royce over the repetitive intrusion of 'him', Royce accosts him and tells him to put more effort into his job. Mr. Glenn is later menaced by Royce's son Finn, who seems unable to speak, and clearly unsettles the man. While the documentary is being filmed, Mr. Glenn breaks into the house, but the cross has been carved into every floor tile of the building, forcing him to enter via the roof, only for the guard dog to scare him away. When the cat reappears, the dog bows towards it, and the cat pats its shoulders with its front paw.

A violent thunderstorm leads to a huge flood, and Carmine is stuck indoors. He uses the fees from the documentary so far on replacing the tiles with carpets instead, so the cat cannot mark them. In the night, he is visited by silhouetted figures of a woman and two children, who ransack his house and paint the words 'You are a dead fool' into the wall of every room. When Carmine sees this happen, he has a seizure, and the cat enters his house, dials 999 and records Carmine's cries for help. When an ambulance arrives, the house is in a wreck and the cat is sitting next to his body. There is no sign of intrusion, and when security cameras are checked, the woman and children are invisible except to Carmine, whom some doctors believe is suffering from some form of mental illness. Bespoke refers Carmine to a former psychologist named Fiona Snow, who doesn't see anything wrong with him at all, but is fascinated by the constant intrusion of the cat. When Mr. Glenn learns about what happened, he is also fascinated and brands Mr. Glenn's hands with an eye, before convincing him that these symbols have been upon him his entire life.

The woman and children visit Carmine again, but they are unseen by the audience. Carmine recognises them, and demands to know what they want with him - the woman, revealing that she is his wife and the children are his, tells him that the eyes are approaching him, before summoning the cat to his doorstep. His wife and children leave, and Carmine, spooked, refuses entry to the cat, which screams at him all night. Near the early morning, Mr. Glenn kidnaps the cat and throws it in a river, but the cat eases its way out of the bag and battles against the current, ultimately surviving. Harriet finds the cat, and takes it in, but later on she is visited by Royce, who tries to get her to explain what is wrong with her father. Curiously, he is unable to enter any room where the cat is present, even though the cat doesn't even notice him. After leaving Harriet's house, Royce calls Mr. Glenn, summoning him to his apartment; after telling Mr. Glenn that the cat is still alive, he summons a blazing white light from his hand, causing excruciating pain for Mr. Glenn, who pleads for a final chance. Royce orders him to finish the job properly.

He decides to go and kill Carmine to end the mission he is on. Meanwhile, the cat claws against the windows and shrieks, prompting Harriet to heatedly release it. The cat races towards the house, being calmly watched by Royce. While the cat is barred several times by traffic, Mr. Glenn breaks into the house and attacks Carmine. He holds a knife to Carmine's throat, only for the cat, somehow the size of a wolf and sporting sabre-teeth, to smash through the window and attack him. Dragging the intruder outside, the cat battles with Mr. Glenn for the whole night, kills him, and drags him back to Royce's bungalow. Royce tries to combat with the cat by summoning a blazing white light with his hand, but the cat proves immune to him and bites his hand, before fleeing. By the time it has returned to Carmine's house, it has become a weak, frail kitten.

Carmine is visited again by Harriet and Bespoke, and he tells them what happened between him and Mr. Glenn. John reports him to Fiona, who begins to realise that he is suffering from mental breakdown. Carmine protests, before learning that Royce has been arrested for the death of Mr. Glenn, completely nulling his story, especially when Bespoke and Fiona see the cat and judge that, due to its incredibly frail state, it would be unable to do what he describes it doing. While in solitary confinement, Royce is visited by the ghost of Mr. Glenn, who tries to attack him. Royce conjures golden chains from thin air and restrains Mr. Glenn with them, before causing tremendous bursts of pain for him by snapping his fingers. Berating Mr. Glenn for failing him, Carmine angrily continues to snap his fingers, until Mr. Glenn is unable to stand or speak because of the pain he is in. Showing supernatural powers, Royce, empowered by the pain he has caused Mr. Glenn's ghost, telekinetically opens his cell and traps all occupants in a terrifying nightmare, before transforming into an, unseen, reptilian creature, travelling up to Carmine's house. Assuming human form, Royce finds the cat and kills the cat by stamping on its neck and throwing its corpse into the river, which boils when the cat hits the water.

Royce, realising that his bitten hand has turned black and is beginning to dissolve, asks to be allowed in by Carmine, who obliges him, oblivious to what Royce is. Royce and Carmine make extensive small talk, in which it is established that Royce did not have anything to do with Mr. Glenn's death. Explaining that he believes Carmine's story, Royce lies that the cat fled when he arrived and it is doubtful that it will come back. While they talk, the emaciated ghost of Mr. Glenn stands beside Royce while the perfectly healthy ghosts of Carmine's wife and children stand by him. The conversation climaxes when Royce finally reveals that he is in fact Satan himself, and that he has been trying to properly befriend Carmine, who is a completely ordinary man and something that God values. He explains that the cat has been around since the days of Adam and Eve, and it last belonged to the parents of Carmine's wife.

When Royce, in a bid to isolate Carmine and make him easier to approach, caused the train wreck, the cat pulled Cass and her daughters from the train to a house and tried to revive them - Royce sent his 'son' Finn (actually a demon in his service) to kill it. Finn interrupted the cat and caused a huge fire in the house, preventing the cat from continuing. Finn then dragged Cass and her children back to the train, but his failure to kill the cat led to Royce muting him as punishment. Beginning to realise what the cat truly was, Carmine demands to know what he did with the cat, but they are interrupted when Finn arrives with the body of the cat, which has returned to life. Enraged at the defiance of his servant, Royce moves to kill him but his left hand has completely dissolved after the cat bit it. The cat bows towards Carmine, who begins to glow the same way the cat does, and Carmine rejects Royce and, using the cat's powers, condemns him. Royce, now completely powerless, flees from the house, only for the ground to start shaking. A ferocious earthquake occurs and the ground splits, and Royce plummets through the gap, which entirely heals.

Carmine, exhausted by the power that the cat gave him, ends up in hospital and is routinely visited by Harriet, Bespoke and the ghosts of his family, and the cat totally refuses to leave his ward. Carmine, in a moment of delirium, asks the cat what it wants, and the cat, in a man's soothing voice, assures him that he has done everything that is needed of him, and that he will never have to deal with the likes of Royce ever again. Believing the cat's voice to be that of God, Carmine asks to be left alone, and the cat sheds its powerful presence and becomes an ordinary animal, which Carmine continues to care for and keep as his pet. The film ends with Carmine feeding the cat, before having a drink with Harriet and deciding to get closer to her than he once was.

Cast

  • Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Howard.
  • Michael Cain as Rodney Royce, the man in the silver suit.
  • Freema Agyeman as Harriet Howard, Carmine's adopted daughter.
  • Iain Glen as John Bespoke, Carmine's old friend.
  • Imelda Staunton as Fiona Snow, a disgraced psychologist.
  • Cilian Murphy as Mr. Glenn, a violent psychopath.
  • Lily James as Thalia Bespoke, John's daughter.
  • Skandar Keynes as Finn Royce, Rodney Royce's mute grandson.
  • Emily Watson as Cass Howard, Carmine's wife.
  • Bella Ramsey as Casey Howard, Carmine's daughter.
  • Ellie Kendrick as Caroline Howard, Carmine's daughter.

Themes

The major theme of the film, as addressed by Christopher Nolan, is the concept that God gifts ordinary men as much as extraordinary men. He has also driven inspiration from the Garden of Eden, especially the concept that ordinary animals (such as, he says, a cat) can be a symbol of extraordinary support for mankind. He explains that Carmine was supposed to be the epitome of the ordinary elder man, who is loved by God and given special support via the cat, while Royce utilises his extraordinary powers to futile efforts to corrupt him. Many critics, who praised Wilkinson's performance, pointed out the fact that Carmine revoked the efforts of the cat to protect him originally by removing the carved crosses from his house, likening it to the idea that not everyone accepts the help that they need, and doesn't acknowledge the protection and support they receive from God.

Trivia

  • Rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and language throughout, and for disturbing images.
  • 15 certificate
  • It is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and produced by Legendary Pictures and Syncopy Inc.
  • Tom Wilkinson, Michael Caine and Cilian Murphy all starred in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, with Wilkinson playing Carmine Falcone, Caine playing Alfred Pennyworth and Murphy playing Jonathan Crane. Caine also starred in Nolan's Interstellar.
  • Released on November 16, 2018.
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