In this edited version, Assayas cuts directly to the chase, introducing Carlos (played by Venezuelan native Édgar Ramírez) in already fanatical mode. He boasts communist ideals, describing himself as a "revolutionary" and styles himself like Che Guevera, donning a jaunty beret as he goes about his shady business, planting bombs across Europe. Though filmed as a miniseries, the action is cinematic in scope. Assayas has a good feel for tension as well, moving the camera with a nervousness that seems to underline how volatile the man is in the frame.
Ramirez is no stranger to playing the bad guy (The Bourne Ultimatum, Domino), but this time he's given the limelight and true to character, he makes the most of it. He anchors the film with absolute confidence (casually greeting the OPEC hostages with: "Hello. My name is Carlos. You may have heard of me."). But his tendency to improvise lands him in hot water with those higher up. The OPEC raid is a turning point and it's the one sequence in the film where Ramirez has room to breathe - albeit in cramped quarters as Carlos leads the hostages from the conference room to an aeroplane. The operation soon begins to fall apart and his egotism is exposed.
The second half of the film sees Carlos attempt to trade on his notoriety after he is demobilised by the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) to create his own movement. There is an air of desperation about him, but in the same way that he seems lost, the story begins to flounder as well. His relationships with women are given more emphasis, but these don't reveal much beyond what is already evident; that he is self-centred, guarded and controlling. The edits feel jarring as well, reducing his 13-year relationship with activist and mother of his only child Magdalena Kopp (Nora von Waldstatten) to a bit of a kiss-kiss bang-bang, then bye-bye.
Assayas leads with a disclaimer that parts have been "fictionalised" but he may have been too reticent in imagining what occurred in Carlos's most intimate relationships. Instead, there is rarely a moment when it feels like Carlos isn't putting on an act. The strutting surely feeds his delusions of grandeur, but those women who might show him up - including Kopp and OPEC accomplice 'Nada' (Julia Hummer) - are too quickly dispensed with. By brushing them aside, 'the real Carlos' becomes more remote and as he soldiers on without remorse, the enigma becomes less captivating. Perhaps then, it's only fitting that his story ends with a whimper, not a bang.
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