Published Jan 22, 2009Examining the birth and death of a legendary man without fully settling on preferential ideologues or pinning the subject as either a tyrannical leader or liberationist hero, Che is an overblown and structurally restrained mess of a movie.
Some may herald its unemotional and almost pragmatic approach to presenting a biopic with limited bias, while others will surely scoff at its inability to grab onto a cohesive narrative trajectory outside of the typical rise-and-fall/self-sacrificial nonsense that films of this ilk thrive on.
The bulk of the four-hour epic plays out like a cinematic version of the famous Call of Duty videogames, with endless shoot-outs, explosions and sniper battles interspersed with some occasionally grainy black and white footage of Che Guevara's 1964 visit to the U.S. as a Cuban Government Minister, where he spoke at the United Nations about the follies of capitalism and the myth of the self-made man.
Che is presented as two films, each starting with an extended geography lesson of Cuba and South America. The first film examines Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) and Fidel Castro's (Demian Bichir) small insurgency against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and the amount of skill, detail and determination that went into their unlikely victory. Subsequent evolutions, executions and social progress following this ideological shift in power are glossed over, as the second film jumps years ahead to Che's re-emergence after his public disappearance.
The second movie follows Che's similar efforts in Bolivia with his small gang of revolutionaries, where he finds that the local peasants are far less receptive to their efforts than those in Cuba. Several miscalculations and arguably, misguided efforts leave the revolutionaries battling an elite squad of U.S.-trained Bolivian Special Forces soldiers with a far different outcome than that of Cuba.
While in theory the notion of presenting mirroring battles with similar strategies but different outcomes to expand on the almost existential nature of a historical figure is interesting, unique and some might even say brave, the overall experience of the film is often frustrating, distancing and not particularly engaging. (E1)