Steven Soderbergh's Che is nothing short of epic. In a limited engagement "Roadshow Presentation", I was able to see Che in what I feel is the only way it should be viewed--in it's four hour length with an intermission. Soon enough the film will be split into two separate entities, but after watching both parts, to see one without the other directly afterward would ruin the purpose and vision of the film. That being said, anyone living in the greater Philadelphia area that wants to see a monumental film and get a gratifying experience out of it, see Che this week playing at the Ritz Five. Now on to the details.
Ernesto Che Guevera is an icon of the 21st century. A symbol of heroism and hope, but also of fear and violence. Many saw Che as a hero of the common people who rose up against oppressors and fought against injustice in Cuba. Other saw him as a terrorist, a murderer and an assassin. In Soderbergh's adaptation of both Guevera's "Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War" and his "Bolivian Diary," we see both sides of the man.
The first half of the film titled "The Argentine" shows the more glorious Cuban Revolution against Batista and his army after their coup in the 1950's. Che and Fidel Castro discuss over dinner how they will take Cuba through guerrilla tactics and a non-stop fight to Havana. The first half is juxtaposed with an interview of Che after the success of the rebellion and of his famous speech at the United Nations in New York City. These scenes inter-cut with the harsh fighting in the jungles and mountains of Cuba give us a view of a strong man with ideals and an efficient man who becomes a hero of the commoner. He isn't without his weaknesses both in his physical hardships with asthma and in his need for control. His efficiency is sometimes cold and direct, but it is exactly what is needed for him to succeed in his goal.
The second half of the film entitled "Guerrilla" takes us to Bolivia after the success of the Cuban revolution. Che arrives incognito to continue his mission of having all of Latin America liberated from it's capitalistic oppressors. He starts from scratch just like in Cuba getting a handful of men to train in the hills and prepare for a similar overthrow of the government. You can see pretty quickly that this group is less into the government overthrow. The figurehead of the Socialist Party in Bolivia disregards Che's actions and his men are less interested in Che's goals of bringing a better society. This leads to many mistakes and large pitfalls that were not an issue in the Cuban rebellion. We see Che's idealism show it's weaknesses and the man himself falls victim to all his weaknesses as well. These dire mistakes would lead to Che's demise in the hills of Bolivia.
Benicio del Toro brings his best to Che as does Steven Soderbergh. For both of them, this is their masterpiece. It helps that the movie also boasts an excellent supporting cast. Every minor person that walks through the camera eye in this film matters. Even the landscapes of Cuba and Bolivia come alive like a character. This is all credit to Soderbergh. His vision and his style are nothing short of breathtaking.
Even though Che will be widely released as two seperate entities, it is imperative that you see both as the point of the story is lost when split apart. This film deserves many awards, so we will see what happens when the Academy comes out with its nominations.