CHE :: FOREIGN :: 032

After seeing the film, The Motorcycle Dairies, I knew I had to learn more about the man, the humanitarian, the revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Steven Soderbergh’s Che (initially split into Che: The Argentine and Che: Guerrilla) is a beautiful, yet somewhat laboring look (pt 1= 134 minutes; pt. 2= 135 minutes) at the asthmatic doctor who fought so hard for the “miserable and alienated” and who becomes not only Latin America’s most legendary revolutionary leader but also one of the most iconic faces for freedom and liberty the world over.

Che is played by Benicio Del Toro with a searing elegance and believability that won him the Best Actor Award at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.  Fidel Castro, played by Demian Bichir, was a revelation to watch, and (I felt) the Chilean sensation, Santiago Cabrera fit the role of loyal Comandante Camilo Cienfuegos most perfecto!

The entire movie was filmed like a window into the past.  The action was gritty, emotional and in-your-face.  The dialogue throughout the entire will was approximately 98% Spanish and besides a few notables (Franka Potente and Matt Damion), nearly the entire cast of the film was hispanic.


At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.

If I am to be as honest as my nature compels me to be, I’d have to say that Che is on my list as one of the Top 5 films of 2008-2009.  The only noticeable flaw (if you know history) is that Che was of average height 5’9 (quite perfect for a guerilla soldier) and no where near the 6 foot 3 inch-sasquatch-ness of Del Toro.  So although Benicio could channel the spirit and essence of the ‘Che’, somehow, and quite disappointingly, he couldn’t make himself smaller.

The next blunder comes when Soderbergh gives us over 4 hours of action, history, and brilliant acting.  I mean, who wants to attach their phat fannies to the sofas for that length of time?  Well… I did.  And I’m sure there are lots of history buffs and Leftists out there that would too.  Not-to-mention the godless communist scum* that I’m sure still need someone to look up to (even though all of this took place half a century ago).

Okay, if I had to pick one truly sour point in the film… which was no big deal really… it was that each part (remember, the movie was split into Che’s time in Cuba [part uno] and in Bolivia [part dos]) began with a map of the country – slowly highlighting the different regions and names of the cities and towns.  If they had used a more photographic and stylish image, perhaps overlaying it with old photos each city/town/village/region, your attention might not go towards how heavy your eyelids are (especially at the very onset of such a terrific film).  I was surprised to see there were no opening credits during this time!  I don’t know why that was… but even a flash or brief flicker of an actor’s name might have woken me from the dreary and drab geography lesson.

Had Benicio not taken the role, Che might have been handed to Val Kilmer.  And had we a gringo playing such a legendary figure, we might just have had… I don’t know… Ben Affleck playing Camilo and even though he kinda looks like him if he grew a big, mangy beard, I would have had half a mind to start a revolution of my very own.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

*eventhough ‘Che’ was Marxist-Communist and was in fact ‘godless’ (when asked, Do you believe in God? Che answered, “I believe in mankind”) I don’t mean all godless communists in a bad way.  The whole “scum” at the end was meant to imply “the frothy goodness.”  Wait a minute, that’s “skim.”  Whatever.


13 Responses to “CHE :: FOREIGN :: 032”

  1. I was one of the people who, when it was released in NY in it’s limited, complete 4 and a half hour epic, went to see it. Complete with an intermission between the films, I just felt it had to be seen like that, so I saw it. I really loved the first part, liked the second part also, just felt the first was better. Very interested overall in the opinion it gave of Che, someone I knew virtually nothing about. I even went and looked up his biographies the films were based off of, and didn’t even know that The Motorcycle Diaries was about Che, even though I had seen it previously. Loved the maps and Benicio’s performance though.

    • joycereview Says:

      Thanks for your take on the film, Colin. I watched part 1 on day, took a 4-hour work break and watched the second. Needless-to-say… I was into the man, the story, and the wonderfully depicted history. I do agree with the first part being a bit better, however had the Bolivian movement been cut with more backstory into Che’s “left out” years in Cuba, his journeys and experiences in Argentinia and abroad, his family life, etc… we might have had a more entertaining and fulfilling second installment. I love his last words, “Shoot me. Do it.” The perfect last words of someone who knew that revolution doesn’t die with the man because the spirit lives on. As Benicio said about people he sees with Che t-shirts, “I instantly think they are cool, and that they have great taste. (paraphrasing)”

      • Honestly my favorite part of the entire epic was when he was shot, simply because I love the way Soderbergh shot it, how the camera was Che’s POV, and the way he fell down in one motion. I just thought that was beautiful.

  2. joycereview Says:

    Indeed. I couldn’t agree with you more on that point. Brilliant use of the camera. I always wanted to see a realistic POV death scene. I’m looking forward to seeing how someone will interplay the lose of of vision/consciousness and maybe have the eyes be filling with blood, etc. Sorry little children if i’m being too graphic.

  3. rpcutts Says:

    Sounds good, I’ll be avin a gander at this one.

  4. rpcutts Says:

    On a side note. My film obsessed girlfriend wouldn’t like that you use foreign as a category. She gets really steamed when a film wins a ‘best foreign language film’ award. She argues it’s either a great film or not, the language is irrelevant.

    • joycereview Says:

      You have a film obsessed girlfriend? Has she been here, read here? Would love to hear her opinions too! I hope she isn’t shunning the site because of the use of Foreign as a category? Tell her that I do it for several reasons 1) This is how a video store would separate these films 2) It labels the film as being in “a language other than english” and perhaps my favorite reason 3) with such fewer foreign language titles, giving it its own category enables me to quickly view a genre that I love instead of searching Action and scrolling down alphabetically or by date entered.

      • rpcutts Says:

        I do indeed. She works as an assistant editor & occasional camera woman.

        Last year she worked on a film called Agora with Rachel Weisz (which I think you might like, look up the trailer on youtube) and she worked on Moby Dick with William Hurt & Ethan Hawke.

        Don’t worry, she doesn’t come on here cos she doesn’t use the internet for much.

        I guess it’s not really the category itself that gets to her it’s the fact that such films seem to be judged as second class citizens. It’s one of the reasons she pays no attention to award bodies like the oscars. She can’t fathom how a film like Slumdog Millionaire (which we both thought was good) can get lauded for being a hard hitting statement about child poverty in the developing world and win the best film award when a few years prior City of God was released that dealt with the same issue and was infinitely superior on all levels.

        Anyway, like I say, she’s pretty passionate but she would maybe be annoyed at me for speaking for her like this so I’ll stop.

      • rpcutts Says:

        to clarify my comment below:
        I’m not suggesting you treat foreign language films as second class citizens but that mainstream academies do.

  5. joycereview Says:

    Of course not. Didn’t think that you did. And believe me… I feel the same way about award shows. A film, any film, should be graded on the weight of it’s collective merits. Thanks for all the comments. I love reading them and getting more discussions going. When (or if) your girlfriend becomes more internet savvy, I hope you’ll send her here. That way you can’t get into very much trouble! 🙂

  6. Helicon Says:

    I loved this movie. This was another movie that I didn’t know what to expect, mainly because I knew very little about Che Guevara. I’d grown up during the 70’s and early 80’s seeing the guys face on numerous t-shirts, not knowing the reason behind it.

    The film gripped me from start to finish (although I feel the first installment was better than the second), and so good was the first part that I watched the second part imediately afterwards.

    For someone to dedicate every waking minute of their entire life to a single cause deserves far more than a commemorative t-shirt.

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