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Cannes Critical Consensus: 'Carlos'

May 20, 2010 | 11:19 am


If you can spend a day in a theater and have buns of steel, "Carlos" might be for you.

The epic-length biographical drama about a violent Venezuelan revolutionary known as "Carlos the Jackal" attracted some of the better reviews to come out of the Cannes Film Festival. The movie, which clocks in at nearly 5 1/2 hours, will be released on the Sundance Channel as a miniseries and by IFC Films (in its full and a shortened version) theatrically.

A sampling of some of the mostly positive notices:

Todd McCarthy, IndieWire: " 'Carlos' is everything 'Che' wanted to be and much, much more—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."

Manohla Dargis, the New York Times: "...if Carlos is essentially uninteresting – it’s his violence and the veneer of sexiness that violence can bring with it that makes him a star – it’s because Mr. Assayas has worked hard to create a new kind of movie terrorist. With his beard, beret and black leather jacket, the young Carlos is a militant pin-up. But Carlos isn’t Che slogging through the jungle for the cause: Carlos is a mercenary, a thug."

Sukhdev Sandhu, the Telegraph: "...this enthralling portrait of the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal lasts for over five hours and doesn’t contain a wasted minute. The story ranges far and wide – from Europe, Latin America to Africa and the Middle East – and it’s a testament to Assayas’s control and discipline (qualities for which, though often brilliant, he’s not renowned) that the murky and dispersed nature of the central story never escapes him."

Liam Lacey, the Globe and Mail: "Though the competition may be limited, it’s hard to think of a movie so long that moves so fast. The three-part film, which started at noon and ended shortly before 6 p.m. (there was a washroom break at 4 o’clock), left most of the crowd more energized than exhausted by a dramatically compelling, suspenseful and wildly colourful story."

Anthony Breznican, USA Today: "What's amazing about 'Carlos' is that is asks nothing of moviegoers but their attention, passes no judgment on Carlos, and allows the aftermaths of his deeds to speak for themselves. And they do. Loudly."

Richard Corliss, Time: "...on sheer movie terms, ['Carlos'] is the grandest, most vivacious entry at Cannes.... In a Babel of languages (French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Hungarian, Russian but mostly English), the script by Dan Franck and Assayas bustles across a quarter-century of modern history. The tone is neither censorious nor sanctifying; nor does the film really explain Carlos."

Geoff Andrew, Time Out London: "The closest comparison, I suppose, would be [Steven] Soderbergh’s ‘Che’; though Assayas’ film is formally more conventional, it displays a similar interest both in providing plenty of historical detail and in exploring certain ideological issues. That said, it’s more of a straightforward character study than Soderbergh’s examination of the revolutionary process, and in that respect it benefits from a superb performance from Edgar Ramírez in the title role."

Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon: " 'Carlos' isn't sympathetic, nor does it pander to his protagonist or the audience. The film isn't made to be easy to swallow, but for a feature that runs over five hours it goes down relatively easily, but this isn't to say it doesn't have its share of slower, more mundane moments."

--John Horn

Photo of Edgar Ramirez in "Carlos": IFC Films

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