Carlos Screen 15 articles

Carlos

2010

Carlos Poster
  • To start with, it's a biopic, and I don't much like biopics unless they're doing something genuinely radical with the form, which Carlos quite frankly does not. So there's a lot of dutiful information-delivery and this-happened-then-this-happened dramaturgy. But unlike rote hackwork like Ray or Walk the Line, Carlos has an honest-to-goodness director with an honest-to-goodness artistic sensibility behind it.

  • Avoiding the trademark sentimentality that defined genre benchmark Army of Shadows, Assayas instead draws out comparisons to iconic tragic rockers of the ’70s and early ’80s.

  • Carlos is always most revealing when watching the Jackal act and react rather than recite Marxist chestnuts, because the film, like Boarding Gate, is ultimately one transfixed by movement: the swift, decisive physicality of its protagonist, the rise-and-fall trajectory of his career, and the larger ways in which on-the-ground terror operations always begin far, far away, behind locked doors where amoral government bigwigs politely buy and sell lives for geopolitical advantage.

  • Because Carlos is, for the most part, an intellectual achievement rather than a visceral or emotional one, it's the kind of movie that can be far easier to admire than to love. But in its grand ambition and uncompromising intelligence, it is certainly not a film to easily dismiss.

  • As much as part three suggests the global evolution of Summer Hours, its form is not unlike the disorienting finale of demonlover expanded to feature-length; it covers the most chronological time and different locations of the three films, finishing up with Carlos’s arrest in Khartoum and extradition back to France in 1994. This Carlos of Assayas’s imagination is more compelling than the iteration we met in part one, even if he’s somewhat less factual.

  • These psychological speculations, and occasional exposition drops, are like little pebbles of emphasis lumped into a swift rush of process-oriented narrative... Carlos’s movement through the movement hardly encompasses all the various experiences of war and terror, government and politics, lived through in parallel, tributary and intersecting lives.

  • The director seems to have devoted an impressive amount of work to historical research, the construction of the script, the casting, the location scouting, the physical staging of the action, the direction of actors, and even the selection of music—and seems to have left decisions about the use of the camera for last, and least. The impression left by this considerable, intelligent film is that of homework done well.

  • It's essentially the flipside of Zero Dark Thirty—a dogged procedural told from the terrorist's point of view. I still maintain that it isn't really about much of anything, though, apart from perhaps the intricacies of political expediency as it relates to sponsorship and asylum; there's a weird sort of black comedy in play as Carlos gets bounced from one country to another over the course of two decades and five hours.

  • There are brilliant scenes aplenty – particularly the 1974 OPEC siege – and a host of scorching performances, not least from Edgar Ramírez, piercingly intense as Carlos; and if the film’s furious pace starts to flag at the same time (the late 80s) that Carlos’ career does, this still wipes the floor with the likes of Che, Mesrine andThe Baader Meinhof Complex.

  • The need to paint Carlos in movie-movie terms leads to a certain amount of ho-hum screenwriting—apparently mercenary terrorists, porn stars and gangsters have exactly the same characters arcs—but Assayas’s electrifying mise-en-scène keeps this lengthy movie riveting almost until its end, which is a feat in itself. The amount of information the film is able to cram in, for better and worse, is extraordinary.

  • Destined for an American opening, most likely by way of the New York Film Festival, Carlos is gripping stuff, despite its incongruously fashionable rock soundtrack and a grossly over-played final section. The extended account of the OPEC caper includes the festival's best hour of filmmaking this side of Godard's Film Socialisme and would make a terrific movie in its own right.

  • ...Assayas’s epic thriller is a subtle piece of political analysis that shrewdly appropriates genre conventions.

  • A dazzling exfoliation of the roots of modern discontent, Carlos is staggering; no more important movie will be released this year.

  • Assayas maintains a near-constant sense of movement (in terms of both the camera and the storytelling overall), an ability to convey entire milieus through seemingly casual detail, an invigorating use of music (particularly early post-punk), and a confidence with actors that yields uniformly charismatic performances. And yet these qualities have been streamlined in such a way that CARLOS works as an exemplary suspense movie or a docudrama.

  • Assayas set out to make a thriller, and he succeeds so brilliantly that you can watch all five and a half hours in a sitting, constantly gripped by the twists and turns of a plot that is faithful to history but just as faithful to suspense. It is this that allows Assayas and Ramírez to keep us with the film. We register both the general history and the individual portrait, but we are constantly waiting for the next shot, for the angle and perspective from which the next bullet will come.

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