“Carlos”, Olivier Assayas’ five hour terrorist epic about the 20 plus years in the life of international criminal Carlos the Jackal moves at breakneck speed and continually energizes the screen. Broken into three parts, Part 1 is the most difficult to absorb since Assayas and screenwriter Dan Franck open immediately in the action with Carlos already established in the international field of terrorism, bouncing between countries and spinning four or five different languages. There are so many characters introduced, so many quick lines of dialogue that explain away a convoluted history of governmental involvement, and an endless parade of female companions that it’s a bit daunting to find your bearings. Parts 2 and 3 settle in more, find a niche and hum along beautifully, though, especially once Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) finds his revolutionary soul mate in German forger Magda (Nora von Waldstatten). My only problem with “Carlos” and more specifically the new genre of epic terrorist ‘biographs’ (think “Che”) is a nagging reluctance to accept the flattery of their murderous main characters… and that’s exactly what “Carlos” and “Che” express despite their director’s nonchalant liberal statements. Assayas flaunts Carlos flagrant debauchery, creating the subconscious impact that a lifestyle of callously murder innocent victims is equivalent to rock star status. A police procedural in the most nominal of terms, “Carlos” is mostly about the extravagant lifestyle he leads at the expense of murder. This is nothing new in film, of course, its just hard to fully go with it. The police do win in the end (kidnapping and returning Carlos to French soil where he serves a lifetime sentence today) but its still hard to fully buy into a film that sets a bank bombing to grungy 80’s new wave. A bit self-serving to say the least.
Never Let Me Go
Despite the somewhat detached and cerebral critical reaction to Mark Romanek’s “Never Let Me Go”, I found it to be hugely moving and one of the best films of the year. Adapted by the great (and under appreciated) Alex Garland from a much beloved novel, “Never Let Me Go” places a sensitive love triangle within an alternate history science fiction tale. Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield are tremendous as the group of young people facing a shaky future. When the film requires each one to wilt literally and figuratively, their eyes hold the screen. They give brave, heartbreaking performances. “Never Let Me Go” is a film about a distorted past and present day in Britain where medical science has prolonged human life to over 100 years and the school of Hailsham is born where children are cultivated for much darker purposes when they grow older. Just like our own youthful days, urban legends are born (such as idea that if a child wanders beyond the boundary, they will end up with their hands and feet cut off) and weird ideas for survival are propagated later in life. The scene where the adult Mulligan and Garfield approach a supposed “art dealer” to grant a wish is handled with delicate intelligence, as is the entire film. A must see.
Let Me In
After the shaky-cam, gutter aesthetic of director Matt Reeves via “Cloverfield”, the idea of sitting through his totally pointless remake of the great Swedish vampire movie “Let the Right One In” seemed like a daunting challenge. Not so much. From the opening scene of a line of police sirens slowly snaking through a snow-covered mountainside, Reeves is in total visual command. Not only does “Let Me In” look terrific, it’s a comparable companion piece to Alfredson’s original in mood and tone. It even seems to up the ante in the acting division, as young “Kick Ass” star Chloe Moertz and Kodi Smit-McPhee are dynamic together whenever they’re on screen, reaching heights in their quiet moments together that few adult film actors attain. Sadly, I think “Let Me In” has already exited from mainstream theaters, failing to find an audience.