A man who for almost twenty years, starting in the 1970’s, was considered the most wanted criminal on the planet. Illich Ramirez Sanchez, a Venezuelan by birth, would become during the course of his sordid career an international criminal fugitive. A terrorist whose very nom de guerre could, and did, inspire fear the world over, his name – Carlos.
Carlos, the TV-Series, is a riveting three-part TV mini-series originally produced for German and French TV in English. The entire series has recently been released on blu-ray dvd and is available on a single disc.
During the course of its epic 5 ½ hours the series examines the life and crimes of Carlos the Jackal. It’s a skillful dramatic presentation, and a program that constantly manages to walk the fine line between glorifying a terrorist and at the same time portraying him as a real person and not simply as some kind of one-dimensional monster.
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Carlos the series falls into this rather murky category that consists of both fact and fiction. The real Carlos has frequently threatened the producers of the series with lawsuits for distorting the truth. But, given that Carlos himself is a convicted terrorist with a penchant for distorting the facts I’d think it safe to say that the French director, Olivier Assayas, is closer to the truth than one Carlos would care to admit.
What is indisputable in terms of the series and actual history is that specific terrorist events occurred, and that the terrorist Carlos did participate in these and even took credit for them. What is open for interpretation and conjecture is what Carlos the individual thought or said during the course of these tragic events.
Carlos is a fascinating glimpse into some of the earlier roots of international terror, a world that has unfortunately shaped so much of our recent history.
The mini-series manages to present the full spectrum of a very disturbed and charismatic man who is part historical figure, part inhumane criminal, and part petty bourgeois.
Edgar Ramirez, also a Venezuelan, is brilliant as the cagey Carlos. The actor undergoes this incredible physical transformation that is reminiscent of Robert De Niro in Raging Bull. Ramirez transforms himself from a lean, young, counter-revolutionary to that of a fat, bloated spent man who has outlived his purpose and his ideals.
It’s because of Ramirez’ stellar performance that the series is forever finding the right balance between repulsion and attraction as it relates to Carlos the man.
The series was well received, and is frequently referred to as the Bourne Identity but with more meat to it, the series would go on to win a 2010 Golden Globe for the best mini-series, and is well worth setting aside the considerable time needed to delve into it.
© Copyright 2010, Francis Litzinger. All Rights Reserved. For more work from Francis, check out Francis Litzinger’s Goulash Fiction.