Wednesday 10 November 2010

Carlos review (Single-disc movie Blu-Ray edition)

This 165-minute ‘movie’ version of Olivier Assayas’s 5-hour made-for-TV trilogy is impressive in many ways but, perhaps predictably, feels somewhat incomplete. In the interview that accompanies the film on this blu-ray, the director talks about his desire to reconstruct a full picture of the career of notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal, claiming that without the complete context his life doesn’t make sense. It seems strange then, in light of that comment, that this shorter version of the film not only exists but has been given a much higher profile UK release than the full trilogy (it’s the only version I was offered for review). So while Edgar Ramirez’s performance as Carlos is never less than completely convincing, the film doesn’t get under the skin of the character, and in the second half in particular it becomes a blur of locations and conversations that, ironically, suffer from a lack of clear context.

It’s very likely that the full-length version offers more substantial reflections on the questions about revolutionary behaviour that this film only glancingly touches on: what is revolution, and what is it worth? As it stands, the most valuable thing about this cut of Carlos is that it clearly demonstrates Assayas’s brilliant filmmaking ability. He is stylish, confident and hugely ambitious, and the sustained action centrepiece of the film – a hostage-taking raid at the 1975 OPEC conference – is thrillingly realised. But if you want some insight on what causes a man like Carlos to do the things he did, seek out the ‘trilogy’ cut.

Carlos is out on dvd and blu-ray now, in movie and trilogy editions.

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