Carlos the Jackal: Deluxe Special Edition (2010)

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Released 20-Jul-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Featurette-Making Of
Interviews-Cast-Edgar Ramirez
Trailer-x 2 for other films
Alternative Version-Theatrical release version
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 325:29
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (4)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Olivier Assayas

Madman Entertainment
Starring Edgar Ramirez
Ahmad Kaabour
Christoph Bach
Nora von Waldstatten
Fadi Abi Samra
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI ? Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Carlos, The Jackal (or just Carlos) is a French / German co-production in three full length feature parts, following the life and exploits Ilich Ramirez Sanchez aka Carlos, for two decades from the mid 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. At the start of each of the three parts the filmmakers warn that so much is unknown about Carlo’s activities and contacts that these films must be viewed as works of fiction.

     The first part commences in mid-1973 with Carlos’ acceptance by the PFLP leader Wadie Haddad (Ahmad Kaabour) and includes his earliest operations in Europe plus the killing of three Paris policemen (the only crime for which Carlos has been tried and convicted) and finishes as the group led by Carlos, including his second in command Khalid (Rodney El Haddad) and the German extremist Nada (Julia Hummer) start their operation to take hostage the OPEC Oil Ministers in Vienna in 1975.

     The first half of part two, covering the OPEC operation and its aftermath as the terrorist group fly across the Mediterranean seeking a place to land the aircraft and their hostages, is excellent television, tense, exciting and riveting. What was truly amazing was how unprotected the OPEC Oil Ministers were and the almost total lack of security. How things have changed in 35 years! The rest of part two covers Carlos’ falling out with Haddad and his efforts to set up an alternate group with West German cells, flirting at times with the Iraqis, the East Germans and the Russians. However, when Haddad dies, Carlos makes his peace with Ali (Talal El-Jordi) and join with the Syrian Intelligence service. He also meets the German feminist extremist Magdalena (Nora von Waldstatten) who joins his group and would later marry Carlos.

     Part three covers the time period 1979 to 1994. Carlos, working under the diplomatic protection of the Syrians and with support from the USSR and East Germany sets up bases in Eastern Europe to conduct operations in Europe and the Middle East. When Magdalena in captured by French security forces and imprisoned, Carlos embarks on a program of terror aimed at the French government. But with the fall of Communism, Carlos, now a father, becomes an embarrassment to his previous sponsors; Syria, the Russians and the East Germans want nothing more to do with him and he ends up in hiding in the Sudan where some years later he is abducted by the French and taken to France for trial and a life sentence in goal.

     Except when covering the OPEC operation, which gets over an hour of screen time in part two, Carlos, The Jackal is very episodic, centring on the operations conducted by Carlos in various European countries starting with an attempted assassination in London. Over the course of the three parts, many, many characters, especially women, make very brief appearances before disappearing forever. There are also a lot of meetings in rooms and beside cars to swap weapons and a lot of driving around various cities. There is no backstory, no character development, but to compensate the films provide frequent captions identifying locations, the time and the participants (and their position in either governments of their affiliation with various terrorist cells) so we do retain an understanding of what is happening. The exception is Carlos himself, The film does not demonise Carlos: he is not a monster, but a man driven by a genuine belief in the Palestinian cause and the need for revolution around the world. He is also arrogant, self-centred, a publicity seeker and a serial womaniser. He would be hard to feel any affinity were it were not for the charismatic, intense performance by Edgar Ramirez, who makes Carlos a real human being, full of contradictions.

     Carlos, The Jackal is excellent television with a documentary feel and an intense and compelling central performance by Edgar Ramirez.

     Note: this is the 4 disc “Deluxe DVD Special Edition” - there is also a single disc edition available in Region 4 that is the theatrical feature film only.

     TrevorD has reviewed the Blu-ray release of Carlos, The Jackal on this site and you can check out his opinion of the film here.

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Transfer Quality


     Carlos, The Jackal is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 which I suspect is the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is an adequate, but not great presentation. Colours are mostly natural, skin tones fine by variable, blacks OK. Shadow detail in some sequences is only adequate. While some scenes are sharp and detailed, on many occasions where the light source is behind the actors the glare means that the actors are very hazy; pause disc 1 at 54:57 in the airport scene to see what I mean, but this is by no means the only example. See also disc 2 77:20 or disc 3 25:38 for other “glaring” examples. There are also instances of ghosting, edge enhancement and aliasing on blinds and windows (disc 1 27:59 and 54:57). Brightness and contrast do also vary, and the credits evince a distinct shimmer.

     The English subtitles when turned on translate the non-English dialogue. They are in a clear white font and are easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is shown as either French Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps or French Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps. This is nominal as the actors, depending on location and who is speaking, talk in a range of languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and Arabic, which is very natural.

     The 5.1 track is fine without being anything special. Dialogue is mostly clear, but there are mumbled lines that are sometimes hard to hear. When they are in English there are no subtitles, which can be a problem. The surrounds were in use for music and effects, such as gunshots, giving a nice feel, while sub-woofer use was limited but does help the explosions and music.

     Lip synchronisation was fine.

     The soundtrack is a range of World Music by artists including The Feelies, Wire, New Order, Oumou Sangare, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno and Los Lobos. It was effective although at times the music was very loud in the mix.

     The layer chance in disc 1 at 62:12, disc 3 73:22 and disc 4 92:05 resulted in a slight pause. I did not notice the change in disc 2.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     On start-up of disc 1 forced trailers play for Animal Kingdom and Public Enemy #1 (4:54). The rest of the extras are on disc 4 with the theatrical feature.

Making of (20:22)

     This feature is basically a behind the scenes about the filming of the OPEC hostage sequences with comments by director Olivier Assayas about his intentions and interpreting fact vs. fiction. Well worth a look; it also confirms just how multi-lingual the cast and crew were.

Interview with Edgar Ramirez (4:38)

     Ramirez speaks in French (white English burnt in subtitles) about how he got involved, working with Assayas and creating the character of Carlos.

Theatrical Version of Carlos (158:30)

     This is an interesting film in its own right. Basically, half of the episodes’ running time is removed, although more of episode two is retained, much less of episode three. For a while, this means less marginal characters and more focus on Carlos himself, although his motivation is less clear and the truncated final section is quite disjointed, leaving out everything that occurred in the 1980’s. The result is that this version tries to cover too much and would probably make sense if one has also seen the full length episodes. An analysis of the differences between the versions can be found here. This theatrical version has the same technical specifications and video issues as the individual episodes.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There are various Region 1 US releases of Carlos including a single disc version with the feature and another 3 disc version with the three part mini-series. The pick however is the four disc Criterion Collection with the 3 parts plus the feature, plus extras including the “making of” we have, plus a booklet and extra interviews with cast and crew including the director.

     The Region 2 K and European releases are either the three disc mini-series, or the single disc theatrical feature, not both.

     Other than the Region 1 Criterion version, ours seems to be the only one with both mini-series and feature. Whether the extra interviews are enough to make a difference is a matter of choice.


     Carlos, The Jackal is a French / German TV mini-series co-production in three full length feature parts, following the life and exploits Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos, from the start of his terrorist career in the mid 1970’s to his capture by the French in the early 1990’s. This is excellent television and for good measure this four disc set also contains the shorter (158 minutes) theatrical release version as an extra.

     The video is adequate, the audio fine for a TV mini-series; the theatrical version of the film is an excellent extra and the behind the scenes is worth watching.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Outstanding docu-drama also on Blu - penguin (there is no bio)