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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Carlos - TV Mini-Series [Blu-ray]


(Olivier Assayas, 2010)

Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Arte France

Video: Mongrel Media / Criterion Collection - Spine # 582



Region: 'A'-locked (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:03:39.411 + 1:51:55.834 + 1:44:02.736

Runtime: 2:04:07.314 + 1:52:21.568 + 1:44:31.139

Disc Size: 46,971,550,828 bytes / 48,411,282,745 bytes / Disc 2: 47,734,372,812 bytes

Feature Size: 15,995,000,832 bytes + 14,480,683,008 bytes + 13,461,202,944 bytes

Feature Size: 21,430,794,240 bytes + 22,946,156,544 bytes + 25,578,614,784 bytes

Video Bitrate: 15.49 Mbps / 22.03 Mbps

Chapters: 12 + 12 + 12 / 18 + 14 +22

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: March 15th, 2011 / September 27th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby Digital Audio English 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio French 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB

DTS-HD Master Audio French 3750 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3750 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)



English (SDH), French, none

English (SDH), none



English language trailer (2:10)

• French teaser (:34)

On Location at the OPEC Raid (21:15)

Interview with Oliver Assayas (19:58)

Interview with Edgar Ramirez (4:51)

Please Note: Bonus DVD contains 160 min. theatrical cut. Blu-ray contains full-length, 330 min. cut.

Episode One - Trailer (2:12)

• New video interviews with director Olivier Assayas, actor Édgar Ramírez, and Lenoir
• Selected-scene commentary featuring Lenoir
• Carlos: Terrorist Without Borders, an hour-long documentary on the career of Carlos (58:32)
• Archival interview with Carlos associate Hans-Joachim Klein, by Jean-Marcel Bougreau and Daniel Leconte (38:32)
• Maison de France, a feature-length documentary on a Carlos bombing not included in the film (1:28:34)
• Twenty-minute making-of documentary on the film’s OPEC raid scene (20:21)
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critics Colin MacCabe and Greil Marcus, as well as a timeline of Carlos’s life and biographies of selected figures portrayed in the film, written by Carlos’s historical adviser, Stephen Smith



Mongrel Media bitrate



Criterion bitrates - parts 1, 2 + 3






Description: For two decades he was the most wanted man on the planet. Now, experience the remarkable rise and fall of revolutionary terrorist-for-hire "Carlos the Jackal" in the acclaimed, action-packed epic critics are calling "one of the best pictures of the year" (David Lewis, San Francisco Chronicle). This definitive collector's edition features the full-length, three-part experience in stunning high-definition picture and earth-shattering 5.1 audio, a collection of exclusive extras, and a bonus disc containing the alternate theatrical cut from director Olivier Assayas.


Carlos, directed by Olivier Assayas, is an epic, intensely detailed account of the life of the infamous international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez—also known as Carlos the Jackal. One of the twentieth century’s most wanted fugitives, Carlos was committed to violent left-wing activism throughout the seventies and eighties, orchestrating bombings, kidnappings, and hijackings in Europe and the Middle East. Assayas portrays him not as a criminal mastermind but as a symbol of seismic political shifts around the world, while the magnetic Édgar Ramírez brilliantly embodies him as a swaggering global gangster. Criterion presents the complete, uncut, director-approved, five-and-a-half-hour version of Carlos.



The Film:

The man known as Carlos the Jackal said that Marxism was his religion and that he was dedicated to the Palestinian cause. Having seen the long version of Olivier Assayas' remarkable “Carlos,” I conclude that for Carlos his religion and his cause were the same, and they were himself. This is a terrifying portrait of an egomaniac who demands absolute obedience, and craves it even more when his power and relevance are drained away. All he has left at the end are a few pathetic nonentities who obey him.

If Carlos is a shabby excuse for a great man, “Carlos” is nonetheless a powerful film from recent history, considering in (largely fictionalized) detail how the myth of Carlos shadowed the years from 1975, when he led a raid on OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, until 1994, when he was betrayed by former comrades, arrested in Sudan and returned to France for trial. He is now serving a life sentence and from prison has complained that this film is inaccurate.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

The term "epic" often gets bandied around to describe movies that don’t really fit the description. But Olivier Assayas’ Carlos is the real deal – a 51/2 hour narrative, with more than 100 speaking parts, in eight languages, covering two decades in the life of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (Edgar Ramirez), better known as the terrorist Carlos the Jackal. Born in Venezuela, educated in Cuba and Moscow, and devoted to Marxism, Carlos – Ilich’s self-imposed nom de guerre – begins his career as a hard line idealist, aligning himself with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) as a way to strike a blow against western Imperialism, the enemy he proclaimed to be his life-long foe.

Beginning with a literal bang in 1973 Paris, when a car bomb takes out a PLFP agent, Carlos delves deep into the ignominious career of its titular subject. Although director Assayas (Irma Vep, Demonlover, Summer Hours), continuing to display a wholly unpredictable artistic palette, opens with the film with a title card labeling it as a work of fiction, a lot of what we see – the day-to-day machinations of grassroots terrorism, the exploitation of small-time criminals by world superpowers, the precise methods to carry out kidnapping raids – has the ring of documentary truth.

Excerpt from Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Assayas'  bio-pic of Marxist revolutionary terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez of Venezuela reaches 1080P for Region 'A'-locked audiences - the, almost 6-hour, film was already available on Blu-ray by Optimum in the UK in a region 'B' release, available HERE. As it is so much data filling the lone dual-layered disc - picture quality is modest in terms of the format's capabilities - but it definitely exceeds SD - and it has the bonus of being accessible on one disc (The UK set was on 3 Blu-rays - two of which supposedly cover the main feature and a 3rd with the 'theatrical' cut and extras).  The image quality occasionally shows some depth and the level of detail has moments of remarkable clarity.  The transfer is progressive - contrast is not particularly robust although colors looked surprisingly rich at times and the video transfer gave me a fairly consistent presentation with only a couple of instances where the compression artifacts are notable. It doesn't appear to look as pristine visually as the UK transfer - but, the Canadian package, has it's own set of benefits (the aforementioned region 'A' availability, entire 3-parts on one disc and inclusion of a DVD with the shorter 'theatrical cut').


I think we missed the 'exact' frame on a couple of the below captures but it should still be obvious that the Criterion, with significantly higher file sizes and bitrates, is visually richer with superior contrast. Criterion have spaced the three-parts over 2 dual-layered Blu-rays and the image is darker - and presumably truer. The Mongrel Media transfer produces a paler, flatter image.




Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray TOP vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Audio :

No lossless - only a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 track in the mélange of original languages (which include Arabic, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Japanese and Russian.) This film would have benefited from some crisper HD audio as there is some, expected, aggression. But even without extended range or depth of an DTS-HD Master it was a decently impacting aural experience. We should state that the descriptive title cards are actually in French but translated to English via the available subtitle option. My Momitsu has identified the Mongrel Media disc as being a region 'A'-locked.


No competition here as the Mongrel Media used the compressed, standard, Dolby Digital at 448 kbps where the Criterion has a far more robust DTS-HD Master, also 5.1, at a healthy 3750 kbps. The lossless track is very adept with some nice separations in the aggressive scenes and some subtleties sneaking around the edges. There are optional English subtitles and the disc is also region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

Extras give us a 20-minute interview with Oliver Assayas (French with English subtitles) and a shorter one with Edgar Ramirez, trailers and a behind-the-scenes look at the 'OPEC Raid' sequences for about 20-minutes. There is a second disc DVD included with the 160 min. theatrical cut. A commentary for the almost 5.5 hour film would be unfeasible and as it is so draining - I, personally, had little energy left to indulge in details of the vast production.


Criterion take an equally significant advancement over the Mongrel Media in this area as well. Episode One offers a trailer, in the menu for Episode 2 we get a twenty-minute making-of documentary on the film’s OPEC raid scene 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. There is also a selected-scene commentary featuring cinematographer Denis Lenoir who talks about the technical aspects of working on Carlos. The second disc includes, the final, Episode 3 as well as new video interviews with director Olivier Assayas (lasting 43-minutes from Paris - April 2011), actor Édgar Ramírez (23-minutes from Tenerife, Spain in June 2011), and Denis Lenoir - one of Carlos' two cinematographers (13-minutes - April 2011). Carlos: Terrorist Without Borders is an hour-long documentary that first aired in France in 1997 as part of the television series Les Brulures de l'histoire. It traces the life of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos, from his involvement with the 'Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine' in 1970 to his imprisonment in Paris in 1994. In 1995, television producer Daniel Leconte located and interviewed German left-wing militant, Carlos associate, Hans-Joachim Klein, aka Angie for French television. As evidence by the 38-minute excerpts presented in this piece, Klein was in disguise during the interview. Leconte went on to produce Oliver Assayas' film Carlos. In this 88-minute film Maison de France, Stefan Suchalla recounts the story of the 1983 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 of terror. It also features interviews with Carlos' former wife Magdalena Kopp and others.


Mongrel Media - Region 'A' Blu-ray LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - RIGHT





Carlos is an intense, educational, and thrilling film that I was very happy to have had the opportunity to see. 'Wow' is applicable. The Mongrel Media Blu-ray is no 'demo' and is inferior in varying degrees to the a/v to the region B-locked Optimum, available HERE, but it didn't detract from my personal opinion of the film value. NOTE: A general Blu-ray release via Criterion is expected in 2011 (see HERE). Many should accrue the strong benefit of owning and seeing this extensive bio-pic in the comfort of their home theater.


The Criterion is obviously a more complete and polished product - in every area. This is an epic bio-pic film that is educational and fascinating. We can strongly recommend the Criterion package. 

Gary Tooze

March 15th, 2011

September 16th, 2011




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
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Gary W. Tooze






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