Tag: che guevara

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SODERBERGH WEEK*** Che: Part 2 – Guerrilla (2008)

Che 2
When I wrote about Che: Part 1 – The Argentine, I mentioned the amount of detail Soderbergh was able to indulge in, thanks to having more than four hours at his disposal. Now that I’ve seen Che: Part 2 – Guerrilla, I realise that even with that mammoth running time, I still don’t really know anything about Che Guavara as a person. But that’s cool, because to me, these movies didn’t really seem like they wanted to be about the history of the man and how he became a t-shirt design for clueless dip shits. They are simply about two wars he fought and the extremes of success and glory he experienced in a relatively short time.


Toward the end of Part 1, there’s a flashback to Che (Benicio Del Toro) and Fidel Castro (Demian Bichir), talking about the revolution they’ll soon start in Cuba. When Fidel asks what Che wants in return for risking his life for a country that wasn’t even his own, Che answers that once Cuba is free, he wants Castro’s support in waging similar revolutions across South America.

As Part 2 opens, a heavily disguised Che is entering Bolivia, while Castro reads Che’s letter of resignation to the people of Cuba. He’s decided to give up his hard fought Cuban citizenship, rank as Comendante and high ranking place in Fidel’s government. Once in Bolivia, Che returns to the tricks and tactics that worked so well in Cuba. He mobilises the peasantry and starts training them to launch his latest revolution.

This is a different Che Guevara than that of The Argentine. In the first movie, we saw him earn his stripes, build loyalty and prove himself a hero to the Cubans. In Guerrilla, he has become a legend, talked about by his enemies in hushed tones. For much of the film, his enemies aren’t even positive he’s in Bolivia. He’s gone beyond the reality of the man to become almost an urban legend.

And that’s where Guerrilla gets really interesting. Che begins Part 2 as a conquering hero. He has bested Batista’s troops in battle and even taken on the Americans head on in diplomacy. But even with all of this momentum, there’s a sense of an inevitable downfall that haunts Part 2 from the moment it begins. I knew nothing about this Bolivian revolution before watching this, and I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say it doesn’t go so well. It’s obvious very early on that Che’s efforts are more than likely doomed from the outset.

Like I said, between these two movies, Soderbergh never really digs too deep into what made Che the way he is. Which is fine, especially since that’s something The Motorcycles Diaries covered just a few years earlier. This is very specifically about Che Guevara from the mid 50s to the late 60s. In a time when most biopics follow the same formula of traumatic child hood incident that explains every misstep the protagonist takes over the course of the rest of their life, I liked that Che was more concerned with who he was, not how he came to be.

Che: Part 2 – Guerrilla
Directed By – Steven Soderbergh
Written By – Peter Buchman, Benjamin A. van der Veen

 

MOVIE REVIEW | ***SODERBERGH WEEK*** Che: Part 1 – The Argentine (2008)

che part one-cinefanatico
Biopics are a tricky business. If someone is interesting enough to have a movie made about their life, they’re probably too interesting to do that life justice in a couple of hours. Something like Walk the Line covers decades, but it still focused mainly on Johnny Cash’s relationship with June Carter, so it never felt like it was rushing through things. On the other hand, there was Clint Eastwood’s J Edgar, where he tried to cover so much, it never really gave enough attention to anything. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for a Steve Job biopic has apparently gone in the complete opposite direction, having only three scenes in the entire movie covering three very specific events in Jobs’ life. Then you have Steven Soderbergh’s Che. Two movies, totalling around four hours.


Che: Part 1 – The Argentine opens in 1956 Mexico. In an unassuming apartment Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (Bencio Del Toro) meets with a group of Cuban dissidents, including Fidel Castro (Demian Bichir). They soon form a revolutionary army and begin their attempts to overthrow dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

Cutting back and forth between a visit Che made to the United Nations in New York, and the story of the Cuban revolution, The Argentine follows Che and Castro as they go from leading a handful of under equipped soldiers, to a well trained army, big enough to fight their war on several fronts.

More than just the physical resemblance, Del Toro seems like he is the only person who could have played the title role. I have no idea how accurate his portrayal is, if it’s anything like the real dude, but Del Toro really delivers on the charisma that a man like Che Guevara would have no doubt had. When Del Toro is leading his troops into almost certain death, I totally believed they’d follow. When he’s taking down the entire UN with an accusation filled speech, it’s totally believable that even the people who hated him, wouldn’t have been able to help respecting him at the same time.

The real Che Guevara is pretty polarising. Was he a hero who fought for the greater good of Cuba? Was he a terrorist and ruthless killer? The Argentine makes an argument for both. Castro and Guevara are fighting for a greater good, but there are times when the movie makes you wonder if the ends justified their means.

As they defeated Batista’s government and took control of Cuba, I wondered how Soderbergh was going to get an entire second movie out this character and his story. I don’t know much about Guevara, so I had assumed the Cuban revolution was where his story ended. But there’s a great line toward the end, after Batista has been defeated. One of Che’s soldiers talks about how easy life will be now that they have won. Che replies, “We have only won the war. The revolution has just begun”. If I wasn’t already pumped to see Che: Part 2 – Guerrilla, that line would have definitely done the job.

Che: Part 1 – The Argentine
Directed By – Steven Soderbergh
Written By – Peter Buchman