As I understand it, this film almost didn't get made. Mainstream studios didn't really want to touch it, even given Soderberg and Del Toro's involvement, and they didn't like it that it was all in Spanish!
I think there are probably three types of people who will come to the experience: those who know nothing about the man, those who know nothing except that famous picture (I'm in this group) and those who live and breath every biographical fact. I think all will come away happy.
Now, getting the tough stuff out of the way: it's a bit of a demanding watch. If you don't know who's who, it's a bit of a struggle to start with. The story plays out over several time periods, so you have to pay attention. Also, the pace is slightly off-putting at first because the usual 'plot points' and 'act crescendos' have been abandoned altogther. Soderberg had said he wanted his film to be like all the other scenes a conventional biography would have left out or chopped down.
If I am completely honest, I did find it a bit hard going in places, but reflecting now, it feels all the richer an experience because, somehow, the simple unfolding style allows you to really take in the nature of the main people and circumstances involved. As always with a biog film, you wonder how much is accurate and true, but Che the character comes across as very compelling. Straightforward in his belief that imperialism and capitalsim was at the source of much of the world's woes, he committed himself to bringing it down.
A great performance from Del Toro, not overplayed, but with beliveable steadfastness of a man who is intent upon doing what he feels is right. There isn't any shying away from the fact that the revolution was obviously a violent time, and Che clearly played his part in that.
It's easy to see how this film could have been made much more conventionally (epic soundtrack, lots of english actors in supporting roles etc etc) but it goes off in another direction completely, and I find that to be a great thing, in the end. It all feels much more akin to a documentary, sort of 'spending some time with people', rather than a full in-your-face production and that leaves, I think, a lot of room for personal reflection - almost a space in the film for the viewer him/herself. A chance to consider what YOU feel about the film and it's subject matter: was the revolution right? Were Che and Castro right? Do their views still matter today? For me personally, the thing which most came across was the question of personal committment: that if one person believes in something completely, then really anything at all can happen, and actions can continue to resonate long into the future.
And finally, a brilliantly quirky ending which sort of cuts the end of the tale short, but in such a way that you don't mind.
Well worth checking out - I'm looking forward to seeing part two.