Oh, so that’s the guy who’s face was plastered all over college dorm-rooms.
On November 26, 1956, Fidel Castro sails to Cuba with eighty rebels. One of those rebels is Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Benicio Del Toro), an Argentine doctor who shares a common goal with Fidel Castro, and that’s to overthrow the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Eventually, Guevara throws himself into the revolution and becomes not only one of the more respected commanders in the force, but a revolutionary hero. However, it all came at a price when after the Cuban Revolution, where he was at the height of his fame, he disappears. Why he comes back into the light and why he becomes who he is, what he represents, and why he mattered, well, are discussions are to have.
Having a white guy direct a film about Che Guevara probably isn’t the best decision ever made, but if you are going to have a white guy do it, you can’t do much better than Steven Soderbergh himself. And with Che, both parts mind you, Soderbergh takes the typical biopic formula of what we know, flips it around, gives us Guevara, his life, his ideas, his motives, and most of all, his mysteries, and barely leaves anything off-the-table. Soderbergh himself has never been the flashiest of directors and here, it works in his favor; there’s never any judgement on the man, the myth, and the icon, but rather, passing looks and glances on his life and what it ultimately all lead-up to.
Did it have to be so freakin’ long? Probably not, but hey, at least it’s compelling enough to work for a good portion of its time.
If anything, Che works best when it’s focusing on the early-aspects of the subject’s life, as well as his later years. This seems to be a rather common-thread with most biopics as it shows us just how this person came to be and of course, the eventual fall from grace. The middle-part where we get the rise is still fine and exciting, but by the same token, a little conventional since the movie never really raises much questions at this point. However, it’s the early moments we have with a young, interested, and rather ambitious Che, and a later, much more stubborn, arrogant, and rather dangerous Che, that had me constantly enthralled by what Soderbergh and co-writers Peter Buchman and Benjamin A. van der Veen were trying to say about Che, the decisions he made, and the legacy he’s left behind.
Mostly, the three come to the conclusion that Che was an idealist, but like so many of those, he also got ahead of himself, made some awfully rich decisions, and oh yeah, didn’t know when to listen to others. Sound simple, easy, and rather boring, yes, but as portrayed by Benicio Del Toro, Che’s much more interesting than three buzzwords. It’s hard to really say if the movie ever wants us to feel sympathy for this man or what he set-out to do, but the way Del Toro portrays him, in a rather detached, yet compelled-figure, we’re wondering more about him and why he is the way he is. Del Toro can play these kinds of roles in his sleep and it’s why it’s so great to have him around, doing what he does best, and most importantly, allowing him to work with Soderbergh who, by now, knows what he’s doing with any talent that comes his way.
Consensus: Altogether, it’s a bit long and probably could have been cut-down a tad bit, but still, as it stands, Che is a compelling, thoughtful, and interesting take on the life of Che Guevara, anchored by a great Del Toro performance.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films