I just finished watching the three-part Carlos on the Sundance Channel, Olivier Assayas’ 5 1/2 hour miniseries on the 70s/80s terrorist Carlos the Jackal – and it’s really good.
Carlos begins as a playboy who thinks it would be cool to fight for the Palestinians. It turns out that he is way smarter and more nervy than the other dippy wannabe terrorists, so he rises to lead his own crew. At first he prudently tries to remain clandestine, but he inadvertently gains some celebrity and LOVES IT. After his first exposure in the media, he self-consciously dons a Che Guevara beret for his next adventure. Soon he is a legend in his own mind. Finally, he learns what happens when he becomes too hot for anyone to shield.
The action sweeps between atrocities in Paris and Vienna, a terrorist training camp in Aden, secret bases in Berlin and Budapest. Along the way, we meet European goofball radical posers and smarmy Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan intelligence officers. We see dynamite action scenes as Carlos must pull off escapes and attacks in compressed time.
Carlos is a star making performance by the Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez who plays Carlos and has to carry almost every scene. Ramirez perfectly captures Carlos’ bravado, audacity, vanity, sexiness, delusion and dissolution. Ramirez plays a few scenes in the nude, with Carlos at first admiring his own beefy body and later lolling about with a pot belly.
Carlos is a French film, but is mostly in English; there are subtitled scenes with French, Spanish and Arabic dialogue.
Carlos has also been released in a 2 hour 45 minute version on Pay Per View. I strongly recommend waiting for the DVD release of the full length version (or watching for it to pop up again on Sundance Channel).