Carlos Blu-ray review

            Although many may have seen Carlos as a television miniseries, this is an extremely theatrical piece of work. At five hours long it was released theatrically and split up as a miniseries, but however it is watched is irrelevant to the impact of the film. Split up as three films it works as well, somewhat in the same manner that Steven Soderbergh’s Che used two films for its subject. These two endeavors share a great deal in common, both in quality and approach. Carlos also makes no effort to humanize its protagonist, or to try and justify actions. Facts are simply provided and performances dictate what direction the film goes from there.

            This epic film covers two decades in the life of political terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal. Born Ilich Ramirez Sánchez in Venezuela, he would go on to become a notorious figure in Europe, hiding out in Syria, Yemen and Hungary until his capture in Sudan. The cause is not always clear and the impact is often questionable, but violence seems to follow Carlos throughout the film. It is a movie which is dedicated to the portrayal of a narcissist killer with a cause to justify his actions, though this is no explanation for his abominable treatment of women. Carlos strokes his weapons and beats his women.

            The film focuses on some well documented cases of violence that Carlos was associated with, including the killing of two police officers in Paris and the kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in 1975. This is not all the film shows, however, with a vast cast of characters who may suddenly use violence and destruction as means for communication. Even at over five hours long this film feels to always be moving, and part of that is thanks to an untraditional but highly effective soundtrack. Pop and punk from the late 1970s to the early 1980s fuels this film even further, keeping the energy going and occasionally inducing mild cases of empathy for the characters.

            This both a film which relies on the historical fact and one which would lack soul without the unique elements the cast bring to each character. At the center is Édgar Ramírez embodying the title role with the swagger of a man who believes his countless selfish actions are justified by a greater cause. Olivier Assayas co-wrote and directs this epic in a loose fashion which makes it feel like a documentary come alive, especially when the soundtrack kicks in.

            The Blu-ray includes all three parts on two discs, along with a booklet insert to make a complete package. The special features on the discs are expansive, including a great deal of historical footage on the actual terrorist, as well as the production of the film. There is a feature-length documentary about one of the bombings shown in the film, as well as a twenty-minute featurette on the making of one sequence within the film. There is also a more expansive documentary about the life of the real Carlos, as well as archival footage. The film has optional select-scene commentary by cinematographer Denis Lenoir, who also supervised the high definition digital transfer of the film to Blu-ray. There are also interviews with Assayas, Ramírez and Lenoir.

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