From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Che (Part 1) - C+

Rated R for some violence and language, tense situations, 126 minutes
In English and Spanish with English subtitles

"Che's" story as told by Soderbergh is ambitious but tiresome

Ernesto "Che" Guevara has always been an intriguing but stylized historical figure. A Marxist revolutionary and comrade of Fidel Castro who helped Castro overtake Cuba with his pioneering use of guerrila warfare. He's far more intriguing and interesting than this unrevealing overlong movie version of his guerrilla efforts, directed by noted Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic," "Erin Brockovich").

Soderbergh's epic film is divided in two parts that compose an ambitious four-hour film, the first half focusing on his guerrilla efforts and the second part his efforts in Bolivia, where he was eventually captured. Soderbergh's first half is detailed, thorough and largely a bore, as it explains Che's guerrilla efforts to help Castro overtake Cuba. It's superbly acted by Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro, though he would in fact make a better Castro than Che.

On November 26, 1956, Fidel Castro (Demian Bichir) 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 - to overthrow the corrupt dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Che proves indispensable as a fighter, and quickly grasps the art of guerrilla warfare. As he throws himself into the struggle, Che is embraced by his comrades and the Cuban people.

Soderbergh brings Che's story to the big screen in faithful detail, after all it is largely based on some of Che's own diaries, much of which was written after his rise to fame. Soderbergh takes great pains to discuss nearly every movement of Che's throughout this time, though it focuses largely on his military, guerrilla efforts and little on Che the person. Some of it's interesting from a historical view, even fascinating at times, but it becomes repetitive and boring, and much of the details could've easily been trimmed and kept to one movie.

It's unfortunate, since Del Toro gives a studied, fine performance as Che, though he resembles more of a Castro than Che himself. Del Toro anchors the film well, though it really it isn't revealing in terms of personal aspects of Che. It only adds to the mystery of the man who has been largely stylized since his death and become the face of revolution. He remains a controversial but important figure today.

Part 2 looks at his efforts in Bolivia after he left Cuba and isn't reviewed here. If you're willing to sit through four hours of this type of thing, go for it but it may be a challenge especially after seeing this first half.