Che | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, June 21st, 2024  


Studio: IFC Films
Directed by Steven Soderbergh; Starring Benicio Del Toro

Nov 01, 2008 Year End 2008 - Best of 2008
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As a whole, Che, which comprises two Spanish-language films over two hours each, is this decade’s most imposing film by an American director to receive theatrical distribution. Directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Benicio Del Torro as the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, Che is ridiculously ambitious in scope and craft, and the precision of Soderbergh and Del Torro—who eschews podium-pounding posturing for quiet conviction and introspective anger—is extraordinary.

Che bears almost no resemblance to the birth-to-crowning achievement biopics that materialize every Christmas season, as the film’s two parts, The Argentine and Guerilla, are based on two books by Guevara that recount separate periods in his military history. The Argentine, the less conclusive of the two films, depicts the 1956-58 drive from Cuba’s Sierra Maestra mountains toward Havana to overthrow Batista’s dictatorship, culminating in the revolution’s decisive battle in Santa Clara, where Guevara’s column prevailed. The Santa Clara climax is the most compelling segment of The Argentine, which, despite being shot in a classic epic format—scope with cameras either fixed or on a dolly—sometimes leans on Soderbergh’s stylization and the cult of Guevara’s celebrity as “the power behind Fidel Castro.” The film interjects uncanny black and white dramatizations of Guevara’s 1964 U.N. address in New York, but excludes his divorce and the executions he commanded at La Cabaña prison merely months after the Santa Clara victory.

Guerilla, shot handheld and in the conventional 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is a bleaker, more intense war film that strives for the natural imagery and atmosphere of guerilla warfare captured by Terrence Malick in The Thin Red Line and Ken Loach with The Wind that Shakes the Barley. In fact, Malick was attached to Guerilla before Soderbergh agreed to direct Che. Set in 1966-67, Guevara’s efforts to revolutionize Bolivia are met with less of the discipline and desire exemplified during the Cuban Revolution, not only from his own men but also from the local peasants, whom he championed in Cuba. Although Guerilla stands alone better than The Argentine, Guevara’s failures in Bolivia are magnified in contrast to the successes witnessed in The Argentine. (

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