DVD review – Carlos the Jackal (2010), Region 4, Madman

Carlos the Jackal: Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Édgar Ramírez Arellano)
Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Édgar Ramírez Arellano)

It’s difficult to imagine a more comprehensive and detailed depiction of the life and times of international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (aka Carlos the Jackal) than Olivier Assayas’s made for television French/German co-production Carlos. Beginning with Carlos’s early activities in Paris in the early 1970s working for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Carlos covers three decades of the career of the ‘celebrity terrorist’ up until his arrest in 1994.

Portrayed with chilling charisma, arrogance, narcissism and ruthlessness by Venezuelan actor Édgar Ramírez Arellano, Carlos is as fascinating and appealing as a terrorist could be without the film ever coming across as endorsing his violent actions. Against the backdrop of the end of the Cold War and the rise of radical Islam, Carlos is relentlessly tense and exciting in the sequences depicting the planning and then execution of various plots, with the 1975 raid on the OPEC headquarters as the centrepiece.

Carlos is available in both the 3-part TV miniseries version and the condensed 158-minute theatrical edition.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 385, 2011

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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