Matt Day’s review:
There are a lot of versions of this movie out there, originally planned to be a single film about a very specific part of Carlos' career the scope spiralled and we've ended up with a mini series that has been shown in anything from 6 parts on TV, to a 330 minute cinema version, and edited down to 165 minutes for some territories. I, as I tend to, hunted out the longest version and watched it as presented on Blu-ray as 3 separate parts, and it has been an excellent experience.
It's a film about so much more than Carlos himself, but it just wouldnt have worked without Edgar Ramirez' incredible central performance. Carlos is presented as an incredibly charismatic man, fluent in more languages than I could count, brutal and uncompromising, and somehow we have to stick with him for more than 5 hours on this journey. As a terrorist Carlos was inhuman, civilians were just collateral damage, women and children weren't worth a second's thought, all was about his (ever changing) mission and nothing could stand in the way. Somehow Ramirez portrays him in a way that humanises him, almost has you rooting for him against the evil capitalists, and leaves no question in your mind that he could have convinced everyone he needed to follow him, and the film is worth watching for that performance alone.
More than that though the film shines a terrifying light on the reality (if the film is to be believed, but it doesn't seem like much of a stretch) of running a terrorist organisation. How did Carlos remain on the run for more than 20 years? It's easy when your terrorist actions are backed by sympathetic countries the world over willing to give you diplomatic passports, ship arms wherever you want through 'friendly' airports, give you hundreds of thousands of dollars to kill the right people and then give you a new identity when you're done. It really makes you wonder about the realities of our current terrorist situation (Charlie Wilson's War managed a very light hearted look at that serious topic very well) and what, if anything, we can believe about the motivations of the men in the headlines.
The third part falters somewhat, but there's only so much blame that can be put on the filmmakers for that as reality doesn't always provide the barn-storming finalé that is most satisfying cinematically, and once he'd served his purpose life got a lot less glamourous for Carlos, but had this third of the movie been tighter it wouldn't be losing half a star (I can imagine this section being very tough if you've watched the whole thing beginning to end in one sitting) but as crime dramas go they don't get much better than this and it really is worth the investment of your time in the full version.