Star - Édgar Ramírez
Genre - World Cinema
County - France/Germany
Certificate - 15
Run Time - 334 minutes (mini series)
Blockbusters - £5.00 per week rental
Amazon - £10.09 DVD (£19.60 Blue Ray)
Before Al Qaeda and Bin laden, the world's most famous terrorist was 'Carlos the Jackal', a name you all know but a man you know little about, and probably don't want to. His real name is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, born to an affluent middle-class Venezuelan family in the capital of Caracas. His lawyer father was a Marxists-Leninist and trained in Castro's Cuban camps during his holidays, his second son taking Lenin's first name of 'Ilich' because the name Lenin was already awarded to his little brother by dad. Like all international terrorists he spent time in London. He didn't go to watch Arsenal at home like Osama did, apparently.
Sanchez is alive today and safely locked away in a French prison for the murder of two French intelligence officers, and convicted of the murder of eleven more people whilst in that prison to add ten more life sentences to his incarceration.
His Al-Qaeda was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), recruiting in 1970 by Bassam Abu Sharif, who gave him the code name "Carlos" because of his South American roots. After several bungled and somewhat amateur bombings, Ramírez Sánchez achieved notoriety for the 1975 raid on the OPEC headquarters in Vienna, which killed three people. This was followed by a string of attacks against Western targets. For many years he was the most wanted international fugitive. Carlos was never known to anyone as the Jackal and given that name by The Guardian after a copy of Frederick Forsyth's 1971 novel The Day of the Jackal was found near some of his belongings in a raid.
His cause was mostly for a free Palestine and he always denied the 1975 killings that got him nicked, saying they were orchestrated by Mossad. Once rejected by one terror group he would simply move to another or set up his own. This European mini series is dramatization of those events, from the day Sanchez was recruited by PFLP to his eventual trial.
Édgar Ramírez ... Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka 'Carlos' (3 episodes, 2010)
Alexander Scheer ... Johannes Weinrich (3 episodes, 2010)
Fadi Abi Samra ... Michel Moukharbel (3 episodes, 2010)
Ahmad Kaabour ... Wadie Haddad (2 episodes, 2010)
Talal El-Jordi ... Kamal al-Issawi 'Ali' (2 episodes, 2010)
Juana Acosta ... Amie de Carlos (2 episodes, 2010)
Nora von Waldstätten ... Magdalena Kopp (2 episodes, 2010)
Alejandro Arroyo ... Dr. Valentín Hernández (2 episodes, 2010)
Christoph Bach ... Hans-Joachim Klein 'Angie' (2 episodes, 2010)
Rodney El Haddad ... Anis Naccache 'Khalid' (2 episodes, 2010)
Julia Hummer ... Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann 'Nada' (2 episodes, 2010)
=== The Plot ===
After completing guerrilla training, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Édgar Ramírez) has played an active role for the PFLP in the north of Jordan during the Black September conflict of 1970, gaining a reputation as a tough fighter. After the organization is pushed out of Jordan, he returns to Beirut to be trained by Wadie Haddad (Ahmad Kaabou) for his next mission. He has offered his 'services' to a special group and his first job is to got to London and kill Joseph Sieff, a Jewish businessman and vice president of the British Zionist Federation and the head of Marks & Spencer's. Calling on his St John's Wood home, Carlos tricks his way in and manages to fire just one bullet at Sieff, bungling the hit but making good headlines for the group all the same. And it won't be his last mistake and after a failed bomb attack on the Bank Hapoalim in London and car bomb attacks on three French newspapers accused of pro-Israeli leanings, he tries to make his mark by lobbing a grenade in a Parisian restaurant, killing two and injuring 30, off the mark and his reputation boosted, all he really cares about.
Emboldened by his casual killing, he plans the next attack himself, promoted up by the PFLP, regardless of his failures, participating in an ambitious failed rocket propelled grenade attack on El Al airplanes at Orly Airport near Paris. After being betrayed by his contact over the operation, Lebanon-born Michel Moukharbal, who turns out to be an agent for Mossad, he guns down two unarmed agents of the French intelligence service in his girlfriend Julia (Gabriele Kröcher-Tiedemann) Hummers flat, Moukarbal revealing Carlos's identity so the Jackal fleeing to Belgium.
From Beirut, Carlos puts together a spectacular, planning the attack on the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) headquarters in Vienna, taking 60 hostages and killing three in the process. But the hostage situation unravels and Carlos demands the Austrians broadcast various communiqués and get them and the hostages out of the country, Saddam impressed with the young buck and so hopefully to the safety of Iraq. Problem is he shot an Iraqi and when the plane nears Baghdad he is turned away and forced to land in Libya, who don't want him either, so ending up in Algiers where all the hostages are released, not a great outcome, ending up being paid off to the tune of five million dollars to 'f**k off'.
Taking money from a political attack not only damages his reputation but the PFLP, who kick him out, prompting the Jackal to set up his own group, meaning he is running out of people to pi** off, including fellow terrorist groups as his notoriety rises above the actual cause. But what spectacular could better what he has done so far?
=== Results ===
Although not feeling intelligent or wholly accurate, this Franco interpretation of events is engaging and interesting all the same. Like I said, I had no idea what this guy was all about but the name synonymous of the time, not a week going by in the 1970s without a hijacked plane on a runway in Europe. It was the first signs that terrorists really understood the power of the mass media to scare governments and the already cowering masses. But it almost meant some if these guys felt they were rock stars for being in the news all the time and so that encouraged them to do even more attacks to keep that publicity.
Ilich Ramírez Sánchez's swaggering and magnetic lead turn drives the narrative on to keep you hooked on the seven episode, three disc, mini series, the accompanying cool and punky rock soundtrack of the time filling in any dead air between subtitles.
Ramirez is the box set and projects a very arrogant and selfish Jackal from start to finish, a man who has no real time for others and all about himself, the acts of terrorism a method to grow fame and notoriety, it seems. His ego is as big as his armory. The other performances are somewhat two-dimensional to let him have the stage and the timeline and events rushed through to keep things reasonably dramatic and entertaining.
There's plenty of archive and newsreel footage showing you exactly what the real Carlos got up to and so able to put everything in context. The rather cold sex scenes didn't quite work though, presumably put in just to give Carlos some sort of sex appeal and power over women, which the real one didn't have, judging by his mugshots, an ugly little squat chap.
One of the negatives is they dress like terrorist in every scene, which is a tad corny, big round sunglasses, shiny black leather jackets, beanie hats and leather gloves galore. Any copper of the time would have nicked this lot before they even got through the revolving doors. On the whole though where cliché sneaks in it's quickly pushed out by good performances and dramatic set pieces as you involve yourself in the Carlos legend enough to enjoy this, not having that cheap TV movie feel to it, even though it is. I wouldn't say it's a must see box set but I would say it's above average in this type of subtitled TV.
=== Ratings ===
Imdb.com -7.7 /10.0 (6,618 votes)
Metacritc.com - 94% critic's approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - % critic's approval rating