CANNES 2010 - Out of Competition, GOLDEN GLOBE - Best Movie or Mini-Series Made for Television
Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramirez Sanchez aka Carlos the Jackal achieved notoriety for raiding OPEC in 1975 and then led a worldwide terrorist organization before being arrested by French authorities in 1994....
Bravura narrative filmmaking on a hugely ambitious scale, "Carlos" is a spectacular achievement. Tracing the rise and fall of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the Venezuelan terrorist whose pro-Palestinian activities earned him global notoriety in the '70s and '80s, Olivier Assayas' sprawling yet incisive three-part epic compacts some 30-odd years of history into almost six hours of thrilling, kinetic, psychologically revealing portraiture... the biggest and, extravagant length aside, arguably most commercial canvas he's ever worked on. Result is a landmark contribution to the recent flush of movies devoted to '70s terrorism... Dense in detail, rich in verisimilitude, displaying a focused grip on its material... a marvel of concision, and for all its nonstop globe-trotting and language-switching, its energy rarely flags... Himself born in Venezuela and fluent in five languages, the perfectly cast Ramirez holds Carlos' many contradictions together in an indelible performance, maintaining a fearsome intensity through the first two-thirds before gradually draining away the charisma and athleticism (and piling on the weight); he's convincing at every age and every stage. The film is Ramirez's star-making show...
Justin Chang, VARIETY
A dynamic, convincing and revelatory account of a notorious revolutionary terrorist’s career that rivets the attention during every one of its 321 minutes. In what is certainly his best work, French director Olivier Assayas adopts a fleet, ever-propulsive style that creates an extraordinary you-are-there sense of verisimilitude, while Edgar Ramirez inhabits the title role with arrogant charisma of Brando in his prime. It’s an astonishing film... produces real movie-movie excitement, action, sex and suspense, which will help generate a considerable worldwide public... The film’s scope, range and ambition are incredible; it’s set in at least 16 countries over a 21-year period, and at all times features the characters speaking the languages they would have spoken in the relevant situations—Carlos himself shifts effortlessly among Spanish, English, French, German, Russian and Arabic. An untold number of supporting and bit players pop vividly to life for however many moments they’re onscreen, and the film maintains an exceptional balance between a relentless forward movement and a certain artistic stability... But perhaps Assayas’ greatest accomplishment is making you feel you’ve entered Carlos’ world. Of course, this is drama, “fiction” rather than documentary or re-enactment, but the film is so convincing that it persuades you this is essentially the way it was. There are few so completely transporting historical movies, in that it drops the viewer down in another world and time without evident artifice, doctoring, nostalgia, revisionist thinking or overt political agenda. Those with a continuing stake in the causes involved or their own memories of the times can be counted upon to dispute this or that, but as a time machine “Carlos” functions brilliantly... When first seen here, at age 23 in 1973, Ramirez’s Carlos has the same handsome, slightly puffy features as the young Brando (with hints of Mark Ruffalo and Val Kilmer in the bargain), along with the same impudent, bad boy look in his eyes that simultaneously questions all authority, suggests that anything is possible with him and is highly seductive. Ramirez, who played Keira Knightley’s boyfriend in “Domino” and had small parts in “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Che,” takes complete command of his role from the outset, displaying the ease and confident movements of a large cat, suggesting an ability to never tip his hand until he plays it and indicating the mental agility of a chess master who thinks many moves ahead. It’s a beautifully naturalistic performance, shorn of theatrical mannerisms or grandstanding, other than those that might be displayed by the character at chosen moments, and one that ages internally as well as in the man’s progressive bulk... Never dull or slack and crammed with so much incident, character and detail you can’t possibly soak it all in as it charges past you, “Carlos” enters deep and dangerous waters as it takes on biography (of a still-living figure), international politics, terrorism, history, religion, sex and much more and handles all the issues with staggering dexterity, intelligence and skill. It’s terrific.
Todd McCarthy, INDIEWIRE
How good is Olivier Assayas' "Carlos"? Think of "The Bourne Identity" with more substance, or "Munich" with more of a pulse, and you begin to have a sense of what the French filmmaker accomplished with this globetrotting and epic look at one man's rise to the station of international guerrilla leader and terrorist celebrity... offering just enough thrills to keep the film suspenseful (especially in the second section), without sacrificing character detail, period style and even, perhaps, historical truth... Among its other striking features is how much of Carlos' ideological side it shows -- he comes off as much as a Che (at least in his own mind and the mind of his followers) as he does a mercenary assassin. Equally notable is how much this story of one man and the many connections and confrontations he has across Europe and the Middle East tells the larger political history of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as our current battle/engagement with terrorism. It's almost like an origin story for the contemporary world... And Edgar Ramirez, while at times more debonair than revolutionary, still delivers a fluid, polylingual gem of a performance... This is an impressive work...
Steven Zeitchik, LOS ANGELES TIMES
The centrepiece of this year’s (Cannes) festival – a five-and-a-half hour portrait of the notorious terrorist-mercenary by France’s chameleonic director Olivier Assayas... it’s hard to think of a movie so long that moves so fast... left most of the crowd more energized than exhausted by a dramatically compelling, suspenseful and wildly colourful story. Centred by a performance by Edgar Ramirez (who gains weight, like Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, over the course of the film), it’s the story of a notorious figure who embodies the journey of the left from the late sixties through the fall of the Berlin Wall... Assayas sees film as more like Japanese painting than Western realism – that is, life caught on the fly, not through background details, and in moments of critical transition. The film as a whole is a huge narrative achievement: spare yet sprawling, in a half-dozen languages and ranging through Europe and the Middle East, authentic to period detail and music (including a strict rule of actors playing only their own nationalities)... Some will argue, no doubt, that Carlos makes the terrorist too sexy, too charismatic. But Assayas’s film progressively strips the glow off the legend without sacrificing compelling drama, and shows how his personal sociopathology meshed so completely with the delusions of the times.
Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail (Canada)