Is it a jackal? I think it’s a jackal

Dan Franck and Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos” (2010) is a three-part mini series about Venezuelan leftist-terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez.

Dan Franck and Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos” (2010) is a three-part mini series about Venezuelan leftist-terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez. The title stems from Sanchez’ unofficial name: Carlos the Jackal. Carlos was originally involved with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which conducted various assassinations and other forms of media-drawing organized crime, including the infamous 1975 international attack on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The film aims to portray Sanchez’ life journalistically through historical footage, which follows the staged cinematic scenes, but the film also reiterates the fact that many of the other scenes are fictitious fill-in-the-blanks of what could have happened during Carlos’ mysterious years under the radar. The film is slower-paced in the beginning but towards the end of the first episode, viewers are on the edge of their seats waiting to see the unfolding of the terrorist plan. Of course, that’s where the first episode ends.

It is no wonder that this movie is endorsed by the Sundance Channel. The episodes are a little bit of history, a little bit of action and a little bit of drama. The hauntingly convincing Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) invokes an unwavering emotional response in viewers, successfully portraying the charismatic traits of a radical leader. The scenes, too, are unspoiled with made-for-Hollywood pop music. Instead, most scenes are frigid and serious, efficiently depicting a truthful picture of the plot, which is based on a true story. Adding to the realism is the movie’s tasteful decision to shift between several different languages, reflecting upon the extent to which Sanchez was internationally involved.

Although the truth of the story ought not to be taken 100 percent, it is clear that the writers did plenty of research on the real Carlos the Jackal. Some raw dialogue comes from recordings obtained by the Stasi surveillance of Eastern Germany. This is interesting, considering that the Northwest Film Center was just previously showing “DDR/DDR,” a documentary about the German Democratic Republic’s secret surveillance tactics.

It is also refreshing to see a film from the point of view of the terrorist directly, something that happens all too little in Hollywood’s domain of Bruce Willis “Die Hard”s. However, one is apt to ask: Why give an international terrorist a voice by centering a mini-series with him as the main character? Isn’t this more notorious fame than the man deserves? In an interview with The New York Times, Ramirez explained that, “What we were trying to do is demystify him. This guy who supposedly had everything figured out was not as keen as he was said to be.” Instead, the movie makers sought to show that one of history’s biggest manipulators was “in many moments of his life…being manipulated” himself.

Whether the movie makes a statement about Carlos the Jackal’s weaknesses or invokes sympathy for a murderer, only an audience can say. And at nearly five and a half hours total, the films give audience members a lot to think about when they make the decision. What can definitely be said is that Carlos will hold your attention and keep you sweating up until the end. ?