Putting a Face on Terror
Criterion brings us “Carlos”, the mini-series about Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, Venezuelan revolutionary, who founded a worldwide terrorist organization. Known as Carlos the Jackal was the most notorious terrorist before Osama Bin Laden. He was carefully aligned with the Palestinian/anti-Zionist cause for equality and justice and espoused the concepts of Che Guevara. He was driven by his own ego and lusted for power, fame and notoriety. We see him as complex, a mercenary who was ambitious and very cold. He used people to get what he wanted and was convincing when he spoke but above all else he was charismatic even when he was killing.
The DVD ( blu ray) runs almost six hours and it not just a biography of the man but it is a serious look at terrorism. Carlos was merely a puppet and he knew that. Several countries protected him until what he knew was exhausted and then those that hired him betrayed him and was put into prison in France where he is serving a life sentence.
The film is quite bold with full frontal male nudity and a lot of cursing so this is not a movie you will see on television and probably not in a movie house (unless you see the three hour censored version). This is a compelling film and the time flies as you watch it and we get to see a different side of Carlos—his intelligence and daring but we all see his conceit and his cruelty. It also looks at the causes that drew Carlos in and how this man came to be the face of terror. It is a compilation of acts of heroic madness.
Edgar Ramirez as Carlos gives a performance that is absolutely brilliant. Through his performance we are able to gain an understanding of the man and we see how his ego dominates him. Directed by Olivier Assayas, the film is an objective look at the man who was able to hold much of the world at bay as he waged his terror and if you want to know about the nature of terror, this is a film not to be missed. Combine that with the wonderful presentation by Criterion and you have a film that you can watch again and again. The blu ray version contains everything and although the time passes quickly as you watch, I, personally, was worn out when it was over. To me that is a sign of a worthwhile experience and I recommend it to everyone.
*A note: There is also a three hour version which I have not seen and I do not see how they could have cut this. Every moment is important.