Che: Part One and Part Two

2009-11-20 | |

It takes some balls to go from being a doctor to a revolutionary, but in the 50s and 60s one man took it upon himself to be the liberator of the Latin American world. At first it was all fun and games, and he was the self-styled hero of the Latino world, and then, the tables turned and his life was cut short, propelling him to a stardom rarely seen in revolutionary figures. That man was Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, and recently Steven Soderbergh took it upon himself to adapt Che's life into a feature-length film.

We've already seen The Motorcycle Diaries where Mexican heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal took on the role of 'Che' during his travels across Latin America taking in the poor conditions in which the people lived and still live. That film opened my mind up to the Latin American identity, and, as a student of Spanish, it's something I should really have looked into sooner. Without going on too much of a tangent, one can say that this is perhaps the best place to start with 'Che'-related materials (whether it's reading the actual Motorcycle Diaries, or watching this adaptation).

Only four years passed between the release of that film, and this new Biopic which takes on the heavy task of portraying a part of the life of 'El Che' in which he became the 'romanticised' hero of the Latin American people and a cult figure amongst the rebellious youth. In a way, this is a hard task, because people already have their preconceived ideas of him, as the man who freed Cuba from oppression; as the person who was unjustly martyred for his cause.

What Soderbergh manages to cram into the space of these two films really sums up the life of Ernesto Guevara in a way which doesn't add to the myth of 'El Che'. It takes away the myth, and creates the man. Benicio del Toro's performance as the asthmatic, cautious Che who suddenly becomes embroiled in more than he probably should be, taking on too much of a Communist bent, and ultimately dying for his cause, is stellar. I actually felt as though I could have been watching the man himself.

What I don't marvel at however is the fact that in the first instalment, El Che is passionate about his cause but not to the point of insanity, whilst in the second one, he is almost on the verge of having a screw loose in the way he handles himself. I haven't really looked into his life, so I can't say whether this is artistic licensing on the part of the American Soderbergh, or whether Che genuinely took his cause far too seriously.

In all, it's worth watching. However, the film is, of course, in Spanish so there are a lot of subtitles to read. If you're into the whole Cult of El Che, then get watching it to fill out the gaps in your knowledge. If you're just after a film to sit down for the night to watch, skip it - while the first instalment is entertainment, the second one is far too deep and political for my liking.

Overall: 7/10 - It's no Motorcycle Diaries, but, I suppose you can't say "His life should have been less political and more entertaining for the big screen". A worthy contribution to the demystification of El Che.

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