Che: Part 2 Steven Soderbergh

Che: Part 2 Steven Soderbergh
The concluding half of Soderbergh's epic biopic of the Cuban revolutionary is an intelligent but drawn-out affair. We know how Che Guevara's life ends, so how do you tell the story onscreen? Soderbergh chooses a chronological, straightforward manner without resorting to flashbacks or editing sleights of hand. The story unfolds naturally and there's no attempt to propagandize, though the film clearly sympathizes with Guevara. With a lot of handheld camera footage shot at a distance, the director takes a verité documentary approach to his subject. The cinematography, performances and music shine. In this instalment, Che sneaks into Bolivia from Cuba in 1967 to plant the seeds of revolution. His aim is to overthrow the repressive, U.S.-backed military dictatorship. We observe Che (perfectly portrayed by Benicio Del Toro) as a man of ideals, as well as pragmatism. He is patient yet driven, charming yet bold. His band of guerrillas marches through the forest, fending off hunger and low morale, as well as government soldiers. The key problem is the movie advances at a snail's pace and doesn't build towards a satisfying climax. At times, Soderbergh cuts back and forth between Che's guerrillas and the government closing in on him, but that strategy fails to generate the necessary suspense to keep us interested. Furthermore, without seeing Part One, the audience won't understand where Che comes from, meaning the source of his idealism and courage. In Part Two, Che is enigmatic but also distant; he doesn't move the audience. Alas, there are no bonus features to bolster this DVD. A featurette outlining the life of Guevara would've deepened our appreciation of the man. Reportedly, Criterion will issue a deluxe set combining Part 1 and 2 in a typically smart package this fall, which would render this version unnecessary. (E1)