The four-hour expose of Che Guevara by Stephen Soderbergh was first meant to be a two-hour film about the revolutionary leader's final days in Bolivia where he was hunted down and executed along with his guerrilla troops. Seriously any four-hour movie is self-indulgent. Soderbergh's film defies Dancing with Wolves in terms of length and if that film was supposed to be longer, it wasn't divided into two parts. This diptych fleshes out to a considerable extent the man behind the revolutionary—though not anywhere close to perfect. Benicio Del Toro plays Che with a soft approach and there are few peaks and valleys in his performance. After story boarding the film set in Bolivia Soderbergh decided to show how Che Guevara had been successful in Cuba. Part one therefore is more of an action film and Part 2 a thriller. The low intensity of Part 2 makes me wonder what kind of a film it would have been, for watching guerilla troops being formed in Bolivia and all the hardships they encountered by not being natives of the country is a miserable experience.
For those who want to know more about Che the film is somewhat successful. Che's speeches in the UN denouncing the Latin American corruption and the military coup d'etat of several countries demonstrate the thinking Che and his politics. In the field albeit Cuba or Bolivia, the fighter who tries to keep the morale of his soldiers up and to fight against the oppression in Latin American politics is always on watch.
That being said, the revolution will not be cinematized, and cannot be cinematized. In depth explorations of the mind of Che are not going to happen when so much depends on the battlefield. The financial operations of movie making especially for Steven Soderberg still prevail. With part 1 we have a triumphant victory, which can even be compared to the allied intervention in Afghanistan. But in Bolivia things changed for the battleground was not familiar and was pretty much without support as in Iraq. It was Fidel Castro's idea to infiltrate Bolivia with the same strategy that had been used in Cuba. The difference being that everywhere Cubans offered to help but in Bolivia virtually no one did.
After all is said and done the diptych can be compared to the rise and fall of Che Guevara and as such an Aristotelian drama with predictable rising and falling action. It doesn't matter how the film is promoted either with a commemorative book or the presence of the filmmaker to sell a four-hour film. But for those that want to see a little more than the image of Che plastered on T shirts and begin to come to terms with his complexities Che Part 1 and 2 is a reasonable step in that direction.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 1/09
Che, Part One and Two
France, Spain, USA - 2008