Che


Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Written by:Peter Buchman, Benjamin A. van der Veen
Starring: Benecio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Carlos Bardem, Lou Diamonds Phillips, Franka Potente, Catalina Sandino Moreno
Released: October 1, 2009
Grade: B+

One of my top 10 movies of 2004 was The Motorcycle Diaries.  Directed by Walter Salles, it told the story of a 23-year-old named “Che” Guevara and an eye awakening journey he took across South America in 1952.  He realised that many people were living in poverty and being taken advantage of by corrupt government officials.  If you haven’t yet seen this amazing film, make sure you do.

Academy Award winning director Stephen Soderbergh (Traffic) has now brought the next part of Che’s life to the screening in truly epic style.  When it premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, it clocked in at a whopping 4 hours and 28 minutes.  It was always going to be a tough sell trying to get the public to watch such a long movie and so it has now been released in two parts – each just over two hours in duration.

Here in Australia, both films are being released simultaneously this week.  They’re simply titled Che: Part One and Che: Part Two.  The advantage is that if you are too tired to sit through them both, you can always watch the first instalment and then come back at a later time to watch the next part.

I think it’s silly to review both films separately so I’m covering them both in this review.  The first movie looks at Che’s role in the successful revolution within Cuba in the late 1950s.  He teamed up with Fidel Castro and their army overthrew the existing government.  The second movie is set in the mid 1960s and looks at Che’s not-so-successful attempts to create a similar revolution in Bolivia.

History buffs will probably know these stories well but much of it was new to me.  Che was a fascinating person and he is played brilliantly in these films by Benecio Del Toro (Traffic).  It has a documentary-like feel and I felt like a fly on the wall – peering into Che’s life and watching his actions without his knowledge.

The screenplays are based on the diaries which Che Guevara kept during the Cuban and Bolivian revolutions.  Soderbegh and his team also interviewed many people who knew Che to help make the films as realistic and authentic as possible.  There are always going to be disagreements about how certain characters/groups are portrayed but I was happy with the balance which I saw on screen.

You might also be interested to know that the two films were shot using different methods.  The first was shot in Puerto Rico and Mexico with steady camerawork and a wide-screen ratio.  The second was shot in Spain using just handheld cameras and tripods.  The colourings are a little different also.

With all those facts out of the way, my reaction to the films themselves is that they are good without being great.  They are definitely too long.  Some scenes tend to drag and there won’t be enough “action” to satisfy some moviegoers.  I had to do more research on the internet to find out more about Che after I saw the films.  Whilst that can sometimes be a good thing, I think it’s a weakness in this case.  The long-winded “talking” scenes could easily have been trimmed.

So to avoid the risk of my own review going over time, I’ll leave it at that and leave the film for you to judge on your own merits.