The Argentine, begins as Che and a band of Cuban exiles (led by Fidel Castro) reach the Cuban shore from Mexico in 1956. Within two years, they mobilized popular support and an army and toppled the U.S.-friendly regime of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Written by
When the guerrilleros are in the Sierra Maestra, we can hear the coqui (Eleutherodactylus coqui) singing in the night. However, this small frog is endemic to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, thus not possible to be heard in Cuba. See more »
[upon hearing that Batista has fled Cuba]
Ernesto Che Guevara:
Nobody is going home on leave. We have only won the war. The revolution has just begun.
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When it comes to biopics, there are usually two discernibly differentiated forms; the film, and the documentary. Of course, when I use the word documentary, I don't mean it literally, but rather, as a means to say that the approach its director takes it similar to those used by directors of documentaries. Che, which comes in the shadow of a recent but very different cousin W., is such a movie that exists not to entertain or provide the viewer with any personal gratification outside of historical and biographical information on its central figure and topic. Where Oliver Stone decided to take a much more light-hearted, human paintbrush to his canvas, Steven Soderbergh here uses stern, almost completely serious shades, creating an informative and compelling account of a man that became a living icon in our modern culture. So like most of those that have come before it, Che is a movie that is best appreciated under no pretence; this is a history lesson disguised as film, and while it does tell a good story, those looking for entertainment best look away.
Of course, the icon that I refer to is quite obviously Cuban revolutionist Ernesto 'Che' Guevara here played by Benicio Del Toro, a figure now embellished upon the memories of those with slightest interest in political history. If not, then you probably have his face on a t-shirt somewhere and you didn't know. Yet it doesn't matter how or why you know of Guevara before you view Che because Peter Buchman does a fine job of introducing you to him here. Plus, coupled with a performance that never begs for attention but instead simply plays the man he's supposed to be portraying with no overt padding, Del Toro goes a long way to giving Che the right amount of conviction that is needed to keep thing interesting and dynamic. Make no mistake, this is no dramatization of the man's life, so Del Toro never piles on the melodrama or anything to that degree to win over the audience, and this is reflected not only through the movie's ensemble of performances, but through the entire production itself.
Had the feature remained its original singular, five hour form however, a different opinion may have been garnered, but as it stands, the movie does well on its own merit. Part One, which details the initial struggle of the revolution of Cuba, is less about Guevara and more about his cause under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Granted, focus is shifted every now and again to set up part two's inevitable centralization upon Che himself, but for the most part, Part One remains more as a wide-angled view on the movement in which Guevara was part of. This shift in focus does well to once again distance the movie away from mere speculative entertainment and more towards the form of an educational informant. Yes, there are scenes that drag on and on, and generally some of these seem superfluous and dubious to the overall arc of the production, but for the most part, the script and direction remains coherent in its willingness to merely document rather than emote.
As a whole, Che's first half is an unassuming picture. At first glance, it isn't anything remotely special, and probably won't provide viewers with any degree of resonance if they are not interested in the man and his people's struggle beforehand, yet the same can be said for a number of similar features. Instead, I can only recommend this to those who are interested in the revolution and don't mind slow paced, attention-demanding material that does entertain from time to time, but only as a natural result of its historical importance. Again, those looking for a character piece similar to Stone's portrayal of George W. Bush last year would be wise to reevaluate their will to see Che; although titled after the man himself, and a biopic on a purely ostensible level, Che is more about his fight than the man himself. There are no real moments of personal insight here, no cathartic revelations or studies of psyche. No, instead the movie tells the facts as they were, straight from the horses mouth, and while they can sometimes work against the common desires of cinema goers' need for personal fulfillment, if digested objectively, can provide a strongly engaging, interesting and informative piece of historically significant art.
A review by Jamie Robert Ward (http://www.invocus.net)
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