For the best part of 25 years Ilich Ramirez Sanchez was one of the world’s most wanted fugitives as he, and his gang, wreaked havoc and a whole trail of death and destruction as possibly the most pernicious terrorists of the last century. Infamously known as ‘Carlos The Jackal’ he achieved notoriety with his audacious raid on an Oil Ministers Meeting at OPEC Headquarters in Vienna, which killed 3 people. This was followed by a string of attacks, some successful, and some completely bungled, against various Western targets allegedly to further the cause of the Palestine people.
A great deal of myth and legend was built up about Carlos throughout the 1980’s and he almost rivaled Elvis in the number of ‘sightings’ and claims that filled the newspapers at the time. So much so that this movie carries a very definite statement that is purely a fictionalized account of the story: after all Carlos himself was only ever charged with very few crimes and is currently languishing in a French Jail for the murder of (only!) 3 people.
Judging it then as work of fiction, this is a powerful film of an intriguing and fascinating man who is somewhat abstruse and enigmatic. Perhaps it was the sublime performance of Edgar Ramirez, or the underlying intent of Oliver Assayas the director/co-writer, but one cannot nevertheless sympathize with Carlos and actually admire the man. It’s a total illogical to respond like that as even as a private person, Carlos was undoubtedly a real piece of work to anyone that crossed his path esp. women who he had an insatiable sexual appetite for. What’s to like about a man like that, but we do mostly up until the end of his ‘career’ when he seems to lose all pretence of any morals and political convictions and just becomes a hired assassin for who ever will pay the most money.
R.T.V. Carlos’s run was long, as is this movie. Released in theaters in various different versions, and also as television mini-series, the full version lasts a tad over 5 hours. BUT you never ever even notice the time: its fast-paced, action packed, a veritable geography lesson as it continually flits from country to country, and a wonderful insight into the underbelly of the political extremes of that period. It took me time to free my schedule see it all in almost one go, and I am so pleased I did, cos I really would not have wanted to miss this amazing cinematic experience.
The movie won a Golden Globe, and a Nomination for Mr. Ramirez. Not for the fact he speaks 5 languages and acts in a great deal more, but because he so shines out with his electrifying passion and makes this so immensely watchable. I hope we see more of him (and not just physically, he’s done that all ready … I mean do all terrorists get naked so often as he did?)
P.S. This movie could win yet another award for having the most cigarettes smoked ever. They never ever stopped whether in bed, in a plane, in the bath ….did we really all smoke that much back then?