Carlos the Jackal
Opens: Spring 2010
Cast: Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Beyer, Anna Thalbach, Susanne Wuest, Julia Hummer
Director: Olivier Assayas
Summary: The story of Venezuelan revolutionary, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, who founded a worldwide terrorist organization and raided the OPEC headquarters in 1975 before being caught by the French police in 1994. For twenty years he was known to the world by a different name, the assassin Carlos the Jackal.
Analysis: It’s funny to think that despite being one of the most famous assassins to have ever lived, there hasn’t really been an accurate biopic about Carlos even as his moniker has been used numerous times in film and fiction with little care for the real life facts. The closest I can recall, aside from Barbet Schroder’s 2007 documentary “Terror’s Advocate” about Carlos’ lawyer, was 1997’s little seen but enjoyable “The Assignment” which still ended up being only very loosely based on true events. Certainly that film was a lot better than the odious Bruce Willis-led “The Jackal” which opened the same year.
Now, along comes director Olivier Assayas (“Summer Hours,” “Alice et Martin”) delivering his first biopic which traces the life of Carlos from his first operation in London in 1974 to his capture and arrest by the Sudanese and French authorities in Khartoum in 1994. Edgar Ramirez (“Che,” “The Bourne Ultimatum”) stars as Carlos in the project which will include events such as the 1975 OPEC hostage-taking in Vienna. The possibilities here are rich considering Carlos had dealings with all sorts of different regimes throughout the Cold War including the PLO, the Soviets, the East German Stasi, the Japanese Red Army, Iraq under Saddam, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
In interviews, Assayas said he had an incredible level of freedom for the project and could essentially do what he wanted with a rather sizeable budget. Blending Super 16 and 35mm film photography, the film’s language is around half-English, the rest in mostly Spanish or French. Shot during the first half of 2009 in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary and Morocco, the project will be released in two different versions. A 120-minute theatrical cut will be screened internationally in the Spring after a three-part 270-minute mini-series version airs on French cable television next month. IFC Films will release the shorter cut States-side in theatres and on VOD, the longer cut will probably have to be imported on DVD later in the year.
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