Thursday, February 10, 2011


CARLOS, the latest from Olivier Assayas, starts off strong. Like MESRINE, I found myself liking the first half of the movie, the origin story which shows the criminal's humble beginnings, the most. There is something fascinating in watching such characters develop, choosing a darker, bloodier path at every turn.

A pivotal scene, in which Carlos shoots three police officers and a fellow member of the FPLP to avoid arrest, is skillfully handled. You just know it's going to go wrong and wait for the scene to erupt into violence. Before long, Carlos is assembling a squad of terrorists and, guns blazing, taking hostages in the infamous OPEC raid. This story arc takes up a good bulk of the three and a half hour film. This is fortunate, because it also proves to be the most exciting sequence. As the terrorists seek asylum, flying a plane from one country to another, you realize the extent of the danger they have put themselves in. Dare I say it? Yes, you really do feel for the plight of the terrorists. This is a mark of quality filmmaking. Carlos, played by Edgar Ramirez, exudes charisma and you find yourself rooting for him in spite of the atrocities he commits.

Unfortunately, I found that the movie lost some steam after the OPEC incident. The care Assayas had put into it, the slow, deliberate pacing, quickly vanished. All the action thereafter was falling. Characters showed up and left with only a modicum of screen time. Incidents which would have been fascinating to see play out on screen were merely alluded to in dialog. The last half an hour seemed rushed and ended abruptly.

This is most likely due to the fact that the cut of CARLOS I had seen was the two and a half hour theatrical release. Originally a five and a half hour miniseries that aired on French television, some serious editing was done in order to chop it down to a reasonable run time for theaters. Unfortunately, the theatrical cut suffers for this. The last half of the film feels like a series of bullet points rather than a story.

That said, I enjoyed the movie a great deal and am looking forward to the day I can watch the miniseries in its entirety. I left the theater feeling I had been robbed of seeing some great scenes. It's a shame they had to cut it down so much. I'm a sick enough person that the thought of seeing a five and a half hour movie in the theater is thrilling.

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