DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
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CARLOS (TV mini-series) (director/writer: Olivier Assayas; screenwriters: Dan Franck/based on an idea by Daniel Leconte; cinematographers: Yorick Le Saux/Denis Lenoir; editors: Luc Barnier/Marion Monnier; cast: Édgar Ramírez (Ilich Ramírez Sánchez/“Carlos”), Juana Acosta (Carlos’s Girlfriend), Alexander Scheer (Johannes Weinrich), Nora von Waldstätten (Magdalena Kopp), Ahmad Kaabour (Wadie Haddad), Christoph Bach (Hans-Joachim Klein/“Angie”), Rodney el-Haddad (Anis Naccache/“Khalid”), Julia Hummer (Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann/“Nada”), Rami Farah (“Joseph”), Zeid Hamdan (“Youssef”), Gabriele Krocher-Tiedemann (Nada), Talal El-Jordi (Ali); Runtime: 330; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Daniel Leconte; IFC Films; 2010-France-in English, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, Arabic, Russian and Hungarian, with English subtitles)

 
"Mesmerizing 5-hour-30-minute biopic."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Olivier Assayas ("Summer Hours"/"Clean"/"Irma Vep") directs this mesmerizing 5-hour-30-minute biopic, made for a French TV mini-series. It chronicles the revolutionary life of the image-conscious egotistical Venezuelan born Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who turned into celebrity terrorist Carlos (Édgar Ramírez, Venezuelan actor). It covers the period from 1973 to 1994 of the idealist-turned-mercenary and, though fictionalized, supposedly sticks close to the known facts about the terrorist who was dubbed by the press as Carlos the Jackal. "Carlos" is based on an idea by Daniel Leconte, and is co-written by Dan Franck and Assayas.

In the early 1970s Ilich signs on as a foot soldier in the anti-Zionist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, headed by Wadie Haddad (Ahmad Kaabour), in Beirut. With that, Ilich changes his name to Carlos and begins a number of violent and botched missions for the terrorist group that include his gun jamming during an assassination attempt as he wounds the Zionist who is head of London's Marks & Spencer department store, is involved with the violent kidnapping attempt at the French embassy at the Hague, organizes the German terrorist cell attack that results in the firing of a rocket launcher on an El Al flight at Orly that hits the wrong target, bombs a Jewish-owned Paris drugstore, and his group of radical leftists take 42 OPEC ministers hostage and demand a plane to take them to Algiers, on Dec. 20, 1975, at a meeting in Vienna. The womanizer Carlos while globe-trotting with forged passports, marries German radical (Nora von Waldstätten). But she eventually leaves him to care for their daughter in Venezuela and then after three years returns to her native Frankfurt. A bloated has-been Carlos, posing as a middle-aged Syrian businessman, knows his time will soon be up as he's forced out of Syria. Carlos, now married to a Muslim, seeks contact with extremists in Iran and professes to be a believer in the Islamic fundamentalists. In 1994 he's ratted out by a former comrade (Talal El-Jordi) and was arrested in the Sudan while suffering from a benign tumor in the testicles. Carlos was returned to France, and is now serving a life sentence in a French prison.

Carlos's colorful life as a Marxist ideologue, a gun-toting terrorist fighting against the capitalist imperialists, is made into a monumental pic. Though Carlos is a contemptible figure, the docudrama delivers nonstop action and makes no missteps trying to explain this vile character.

REVIEWED ON 12/19/2010       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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