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
This film and Che: Part Two (2008) were screened combined at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival under the title "Che". See more »
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 »
He was a revolutionary fighter, a doctor, a social philosopher and a martyr who turned to armed warfare as a 'necessary' means of stamping out the foreign complexities, poverty and injustice that had bled South America for centuries. He was a Marxist, a writer, a guerrilla and a diplomat who rose to prominence as a leader of Fidel Castro's radical '26th of July Movement': a left wing political party that launched an armed invasion of Cuba rapt on toppling U.S backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. This historical revolt: the focal point of director Steven Soderbergh's enduring, coarse and superbly crafted part one of two biopic. A sometimes bitty, sometimes brilliant hand-held epic that succeeds in its failure to fall into the consumer culture camp that's exploited Ernesto 'Che' Guevara's image now for so long.
Steven Soderbergh refrains, then, from counteracting the magnitude of Che: Part One's dense political platform by ramping up the fireworks. This wont appeal to mainstream viewers. This is not a Cuban Braveheart. This is not some twisted Scarface prequel. There will be no post-movie pop-art. Che: Part One is an intelligent and vital take on the man behind the myth not a balls-to-the-wall action spectacle blaring with blood, bullets and CGI. It's a thorough and naturalistic treatise on iconic human drive and endeavour that infrequently shuttles between monochrome and Technicolor, between Che Guevara's 1964 delegation at the UN headquarters and time spent trudging through the Cuban jungle.
If your understanding of certain political ideals and movements are, at best, hazy- then it's best to steer clear of this one. You're likely are likely to find the first serving of Soderbergh's four-and-a-half-hour, two part political epic a little confusing. This ain't no Hollywood funded, slick and stylish, over-dramatic chronicle concerned with entertainment or income. This isn't 'Defiance' or 'Valkrye'. This is a well-researched, claustrophobic and paced political drama (shot in Spanish) where spurts of action, violence and humour are few and far between. Imagine Oliver Stone's 'Salvador' by the way of Terrance Mallick's 'The Thin Red Line': fragmented, anti-mainstream and very heavy-going.
The bravura Benicio Del Toro stars as Che and is quite excellent. He delivers a focused and unwavering performance worthy of a thousand accolades: his finest since '21 Grams'. The fact that Del Toro is fluent in Spanish also helps, as does a rallying and unknown supporting cast that work well as a low-key ensemble. It's all about Del Toro, though. His insurgent, intense and convincing Che is one marred by crippling bouts of asthma yet defined by a burning desire to educate and reform- to put his litigious beliefs into action and unite Latin America.
With Che: Part One, the diligent Steven Soderbergh has found his blend of realism and narrative, documentary and drama. As an avid Che fan and reader of his books and biographies, there is little doubt in my mind that this monumental work will stand as the first piece in the definitive two part screen portrait of one the twentieth century's most iconic, yet largely uncharted, political figures.
Final Verdict: While lesser films wallow in the limelight, Che: Part One stirs understated in the shadows seemingly content with the fact that it wont appeal to all, or many. Steven Soderbergh has crafted a very loyal and well-made biopic. One that demythologises, one that educates, one that excels and ensues Walter Salle's soul-searching Che preface: The Motorcycle Diaries.
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