Che (2008), or If You Were Really My Friend, You’d Start A Revolution With Me…

14 06 2009

Whew! What an epic. After watching the 4 1/2 hour bombast Che, I can safely say that I am both profoundly touched by the plight of the South American peoples and completely exhausted. Che Guevara is a very complex historical character, and Che is similarly complex, and that makes it a very draining experience, emotionally and even physically. If you can commit yourself to a grueling historical drama like this, there is a lot to gleam from it on a number of different levels. And after watching it through, I feel I can safely say that this is Steven Soderbergh’s comeback directorial effort.

Split into two different parts, Che covers the man’s life as a warrior, splitting the movie between his time as a guerrilla in the successful revolution in Cuba and his failed Bolivian expedition. It begins with his original meeting with Castro, and their subsequent gathering of men, supplies, and support from the Cuban people. This is all interwoven with footage of his visit to the United Nations four years after the success of the revolution, which shows him presenting his ideals of an liberated world before the political powers that be. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, watching him fight the battles that the later footage clearly proves his victory. The second half of the film, though, is much more straightforward. It shows the Bolivian front in all its rugged, unforgiving glory, from his incognito entry into the country to the bloody brutal battles to the betrayals and all the way to the bitter and bloody end. We are there every step of the way. The camera does not flinch an inch from the tragic demoralizing of Che’s revolutionaries as the final act comes rough and slow. It is a harsh but very genuine portrait of Che as a political leader and a fighter that comes off as nothing if not powerful.

I liked every minute of this gigantic historical epic. There was not one wasted scene, and that is a real achievement here when one takes everything into account. It’s the kind of movie where the build is so slow that you don’t even notice how ratcheted up you are until the scenes reach their climax. I felt very involved with the ideals put forth by Che, and by the end I truly shared his distaste for the enslavement of the South American peasant by their own governments. It’s a political movie, it’s a war movie, but in the end it’s a movie about freedom, and the one man who sacrificed his own freedom so that others might enjoy their own. And yes, for the record, I know all about the “other” side of Che, the “mass-murdering fuckhead”, a name that he has also duly earned as the “butcher of La Cabana” and for his backing of an oppressive Cuban government. But there are two sides to every person, especially this man, and it is the side of the revolutionary that we are shown in this film, to wondrous effect.

Two men have come out of this film with their names cleared, as far as I am concerned. Firstly, Benicio Del Toro surprises me in a way he has not since the film 21 Grams. He becomes Ernesto “Che” Guevara in all his many aspects; doctor, tactician, warrior, lover, and politico. He becomes a man of many aspects, a man of true duality that led a nation to free itself (for a time) and also killed those who stood in the way of HIS revolution. Del Toro remains solid in all 270 minutes of this great movie. Not once does he falter or lose his motivation. He delivers a performance worth noting because of its strength and its incredible stamina.

And I might just be fresh off a good movie high, forgetting all the crap that has been shoveled my way by this man, but I think, for now, that Steven Soderbergh is off the hook for his Ocean’s movies. He makes Che seem effortless, like it was a documentary found in the jungle rather than an intense and over-long shoot. I’m really impressed with the respect he has for the material as well as the historical implications of the material. He gets in close with the camera, deep in the trenches, and he never lets go. He sticks with Del Toro like one of Che’s soldiers, asking for guidance, and Del Toro delivers on it constantly.

If I had one gripe, I would say, again, that the music is inconsistent. I don’t know what it is, recently, but there have been a lot of bad music choices. And there’s hardly any music in Che, so when it sticks out, it really sticks out. When they play a number of traditional Cuban acoustic pieces, I really get into the film, but there are some really unfortunate pieces of piano sting music before a few of the more harrowing scenes that I could have done without. It’s unnecessary, and honestly rather jarring.

But other than that it’s worth your time. I was really impressed with the craftsmanship here, as well as the acute attention to detail. It is a movie that takes a commitment, obviously, but it is a commitment you will not regret. Keep an eye out for Del Toro and Soderbergh’s little touches here and there, and note the love they seem to have for this period in general. I think you’ll like it a lot; I know I did. I give Che 9 mass-murdering fuckheads out of 10! A high recommendation!

Tomorrow I tackle Brian’s Song! Get it? Get it!?!?!




2 responses

15 06 2009

I definitely have to see this one SOON!

I am looking forward to seeing Del Toro in The Wolf Man this summer too! May even get to the theatre to see that one!

15 06 2009

Yeah, it was very, very good. I also can’t wait to see Del Toro as The Wolf Man! Man, can you believe THAT franchise is being re-imagined? It seems like such a golden era concept. I couldn’t imagine them remaking The Invisible Man or Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde without totally changing every possible facet of the plot to fit the 21st century. But it sounds like it’ll be pretty good, huh? We’ll just have to wait and see…

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