Finally saw Carlos!

Carlos ★★★★½
(France/Germany, 165 min)
Dir: Olivier Assayas; Writ: Olivier Assayas & Dan Franck
Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Scheer, Nora von Waldstatten, Ahmad Kaabour.
Just a quick one today (I need to cram in more reading before the Golden Globes tonight!) Actually, I can add another film to the “I’m rooting for list” – Carlos, the staggering crime epic by French mater Oliver Assayas. Carlos premiered at Cannes earlier this year, and there was considerable hype for Assayas’s film. Carlos originally runs at 330 min (5½ hours!) but it has also been released in a 165-minute theatrical cut, which I saw last night. (The complete version ran as a miniseries on IFC.)

 For a film that had nearly three hours lopped off its running time, Carlos is a stunning and absorbing piece of work. The film chronicles Palestinian Liberation terrorist/revolutionary Carlos Martinez (played by Edgar Ramirez) from his early crimes straight through to his arrest in the mid-1990’s. What makes the film so exciting is that Assayas offers dense dramatizations of key moments from Carlos’s career, rather than an array of superficial snippets. The centrepiece of the film chronicles the attack he orchestrated during the 1973 OPEC conference in Vienna. The raid, hostage taking, and subsequent flight to Algiers occupy nearly a third of the film, but the sequence is so taut and well executed that it could be a stand-alone film in itself. And a great one at that.

The action of Carlos also jumps around from a dozen or so countries and the soundtrack features eight languages spoken at different intervals by members of the cast. Through Carlos’s acts, the film thus offers a smart portrait of the complex politics of globalization (much like Assayas did via the dissolution of a single family in last year’s Summer Hours). Further aided by laudable performances by lead Edgar Ramirez and the rest of the international cast, as well as first-rate cinematography and some brilliant editing, Carlos is riveting cinema. If the theatrical version is this good, I can’t wait to see the five-hour cut!