|Where do you folks stand on the subject of controversial 1960s revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevarra? I'm not a fan and will say it right up front. So you may wonder why I sat through four and a half hours of "Che" One and "Che" Two starring Benicio del Toro as Che directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Both men are Oscar winners. You may know Soderbergh from such movies as the Ocean's series (Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen), Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, Erin Brockovitch and many others. Del Toro has been in such movies as "Twenty One Grams", "Snatch", " Things We Lost in the Fire" and so on.
I saw this movie because of its history, but was left feeling that what we were given is not a view of history likely to please Guevarra's many enemies. The first part of the movie shows Guevarra meeting Fidel Castro in Mexico and agreeing to join up with Castro's cause of armed revolution against Cuba's brutal regime of Fulgencio Baptista.
The rest of Part One shows Guevarra much more than Castro living in the mountain jungles, commanding small groups of revolutionaries, suffering from debilitating bouts of asthma, doing without food and basic comforts, trying to maintain discipline among soldiers, even executing one who committed rape. The effort in the mountains was exhausting and so was I after awhile, because Del Toro is soft spoken and every day life, while realistic, can be montonous on film. I longed for Soderbergh to have used a more judicious editing process.
And by the way, the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles. These substitles were often hard to read because they were small and their light color often blended into the background.
The movie ends with Castro's victory and Baptista fleeing Cuba for safer climes.
"Che" Part Two shows the revoltionary mysteriously abandoning the cause in Cuba with no explanation and heading to the severe territory of Bolivia to renew his revolutionary fervor among the peasants there. Again, we see a long series of guerilleros moving from camp to camp, engaging in skirmishes with Bolivian regulars, facing betrayal by the campesinos they were trying to help and toiling to instill discipline in men who do not have the revoultionary zeal of the Cubans.
Che's asthma worsens. (As a life long asthmatic, I can feel his suffering.) As a doctor he has to try to heal horrible wounds his fellow fighters receive in their many violent encounters with a determined and US equipped and trained army.
Again, we face the monotony of daily scrounging for food and making do with scarce resources thoroughout Part Two. The monotony wears down the viewer. Finally--well, we know the end.
When the movie ends, one sits wondering why in all those hours, the movie never once shows Guevarra's darker side...never once. Instead, if I were from Mars watching this movie, I would think Guevarra was close to a saint. Was that the intent?
I will say that Benicio del Toro will undoubtedly get many awards nominations for his role as Che. He certainly looks like Guevarra. At times he got pretty hairy and wild-looking. He reminded me of the GEICO caveman in looks , but there is nothing funny about this movie. Don't look for even a hint of humor here. And, yes, I bet guerilleros in Cuba and Bolivia did look unkempt and downright dirty living out there in the jungles.
While one does get an amazingly life-like representation of how long dull hours alternated with short spurts of danger and mayhem, we don't see what drove Che to such extremes. Why, for example, once Castro was victorious in Cuba, did Che give all that up to start again in Africa and then in Bolivia? Why did he sacrifcie so much for Bolivian peasants who neither sought nor supported his efforts. We also never see why Che was such a hard core Communist dedicated to armed revolution.
All we see is his day-to-day life. When one sees how dull, uncomfortable yet dangerous it was every day for years, we wonder what kept him going, but this movie won't tell us.
If you are interested in Guevarra, this is a worthwhile film to see to add to "The Motorcycle Diaries" which deals with his pre-Castro life as a young doctor on a long journey through Latin America. If you enjoy great acting, you will appreciate Benicio del Toro. There are also very small cameo appearances by the likes of Mark Damon and Lou Diamond Phillips.
Last edited on Sun Feb 15th, 2009 02:08 am by CleburneFan