- 03 Nov 10
Someone tell Javier Bardem to watch out: there’s a new kid on the block
Carlos is the sprawling fictionalised account of Carlos the Jackal, the infamous Venezuelan terrorist. Originally broadcast as a TV mini-series, the five-and-a-half hour long film acts as an in-depth portrait of the terrorist’s life and career, from his brazen kidnapping of OPEC representatives in Vienna to his role as an arms trafficker under the Iron Curtain at the end of the Cold War.
Edgar Ramirez’s lead performance is incredible, and while the film tries to avoid glamorising the terrorist, Assayas’ direction is no match for Ramirez’ raw magnetism. Early in the film, he casually throws a bomb into the doorway of a London bank, before returning to his flat to admire his naked body in the mirror in the most blatant display of machismo vainglory ever committed to film. In another scene, he seduces a woman by rubbing grenades and guns over her skin, proclaiming that the “weapons are extensions of my body.” Arrogant and prone to talking in clichés, his self-delusion not only brilliantly represents the single-mindedness needed to become an international terrorist, but will also introduce the audience to an irritatingly common theme of this reviewer’s life: an unwilling attraction to that intense bad boy in the sunglasses.
And it’s a good thing too, as without Rameriez’ stellar turn, Carlos is an overly event-driven narrative. Though its first half is taut and engaging, Carlos loses all focus, pace and coherency in its final act. Assuming far too much about the audience’s political knowledge, many of the terrorist’s murders and political affiliations remain a confused, blurred mystery, and Assayas’ stubborn determination to account for every major event in the Jackal’s career gets tedious and repetitive. Though a superbly made and meticulous portrait, Carlos is more interesting than entertaining. Bring a cushion to the screening, and someone tell Javier Bardem to watch out: there’s a new kid on the block.