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Carlos [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
  • Audio Codec: Multilingual DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Run Time: 339 Mins.
  • Discs: 2 (2 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 27, 2011
  • List Price: $49.95

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

Editor’s Note: Portions of this review were previously published as our Carlos the Jackal [UK Release] Blu-ray Review. All screen captures were taken from their respective releases.

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

With terrorism so much at the fore of the news today, the story of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the infamous Venezuelan Marxist militant responsible for many  terrorist attacks throughout the 70’s and early 80’s, including the 1975 raid of the OPEC meeting, seems quite apposite to today’s post-9/11 environment.

Director Olivier Assayas’ sprawling 3-part miniseries follows two decades in the life of Sanchez, known to the world as Carlos (Édgar Ramírez), from his early days as a militant activist in France, his involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), through to the end of his run in the Sudan.

The production here is grand, sleek and intense as the intrigue of the situations play out, but even across its over five-hour span, Carlos never finds any real purpose. The miniseries, rather than delving deeper into the motivations of the terrorists, plays out more like a series of set pieces, and begins to lose its momentum after a while. There is no real examination of the underlying motivations for Carlos to lead his underlings against the “Zionists.”

These things aside, the drama in Carlos feels realistic, is brilliantly scripted as far as its dialogue is concerned, and superbly acted by all involved. Ramírez does an excellent job, with smoldering sexuality, self-centered motivations, and percolating anger.

The Criterion Collection’s set does not include the 2 1/2 hour theatrical version of Carlos, only the three-part mini-series.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

I found the Optimum UK release of this to look just a bit soft and while this release from Criterion looks generally the same, it definitely shows an improvement in detail, with an extension of high frequency information and a more textured look to its grain structure. The film, lit with mostly practical lighting, still remains a bit dull overall, but that is due to artistic intent. The AVC encodement presented by Criterion is almost flawless, without a hint of source damage or video noise.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The film’s soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, remains rather lifeless on this Criterion release even if it did seem to be a little more dynamic to my ears this time around as compared to the Optimum release. The surround channels contain only some very low-level ambience, subtle at best, and really only open up with the film’s numerous explosions and gunfire. Dialogue is clean and there is a reasonable use of directional panning across the front.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4.5/5]

This is one of the more feature-laden editions from the Criterion Collection, offering an abundance of supplements that not only help viewers learn more about the film itself from the director, cinematographer and actors themselves, but also includes some riveting materials on the real-life characters portrayed in the film, including a documentary on Carlos and an interview with Hans-Joachim Klein.

The supplements provided with this release:

Disc 1:

  • Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
  • Shooting the OPEC Sequence (1.33:1; 00:20:23) – This twenty-minute documentary shows how Olivier Assayas and his crew re-created the historic events of December 21, 1975 when Carlos and his team raided OPEC headquarters in Vienna during a meeting of the group’s ministers. It was shot on the set of Carlos and directed by Arnaud Giocomini, for Film en Stock.
  • Selected-Scene Commentary – Cinematographer Denis Lenoir comments on the technical aspects of his work on Carlos.

Disc 2:

  • Olivier Assayas (1.78:1; 1080p/24) – A forty-three-minute video interview with director Oliver Assayas shot exclusively for the Criterion Collection in Paris in April 2011.
  • Édgar Ramírez (1.78:1; 1080p/24) – A twenty-two minute interview with actor Édgar Ramírez shot exclusively for the Criterion Collection in Tenerife, Spain, in June 2011.
  • Denis Lenoir (1.78:1; 1080p/24) – This thirteen-minute piece features Denis Lenoir, one of Carlos’ two cinematographers. It was shot exclusively for the Criterion Collection in April 2011.
  • Carlos: Terrorist Without Borders (1.33:1; 1080i/60) – This hour-long documentary first aired in France in1997, as part of the television series Les brûlures de l’histoire. It traces the life of Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, a.k.a. Carlos, from his involvement with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1970 to his imprisonment on Paris in 1994.
  • Hans-Joachim Klein (1.33:1; 1080i/60) – In 1995, television producer Daniel Leconte located and interviewed German left-wing militant Hans-Joachim Klein, a.k.a. Angie, for French television. As evidenced in these excerpts from that conversation, Klein was in disguise during the interview. Leconte went on to produce Olivier Assayas’ film Carlos.
  • Maison de France (1.78:1; 1080i/60) – This eighty-eight-minute film by Stefan Suchalla recount the story of the 1993 bombing of the Maison de France in West Berlin, an act against the French State orchestrated by Johannes Weinrich on behalf of Carlos. In the film, Suchalla looks at the accidental victims if terror. It also features interviews with Carlos’ former wife Magdalena Kopp and others.

Booklet: This is a particularly lengthy booklet from the Criterion Collection containing not one, but two essays on the film by critics Colin MacCabe and Greil Marcus, plus bios on the characters portrayed in the film, but the most interesting bit included is a timeline on the life of Carlos, spanning 1949 to 1997. Additionally, the booklet contains the usual film credits and information on the transfer.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

This film may not be perfect, but it is visually appealing and rendered flawlessly in a value-rich package from Criterion Collection that should fit nicely into any collection.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B0056ANHP4[/amazon-product]

Purchase Carlos [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4.5/5]

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