Che is Steven Soderbergh's epically long movie about the revolutionary life of Che Guevara. Running a little over 4 hours, the movies are impressive looking, but really stretch attention spans towards the end of the film. The movies were set up as The Rise (The Argentine) and The Fall (The Guerilla). They were also shot differently. The Argentine I believe was all digital, with bright, almost over-saturated colors. It was also in 2.35:1, with a lot of low angle shots to make Che look more impressive, lots of deep focus photography, and some gorgeous wide shots of the mountains and jungle. It felt epic and grand, and the tone of the movie is much more positive. The action shots are mostly well staged and unadorned with heroics. There's also some nice faux documentary footage of Che in New York City. These scenes serve as a way for Che to explain his philosophies and ideas as the Cuban Revolution plays in the background. My only issue with these scenes is that they seem overly cinematic for supposed documentary footage, even if the documentary footage is staged. There's tons of cuts, close ups, and artistically set up shots of Che. It kind of ruined the documentary feel.
The Guerilla was in a 1.77:1 ratio, the colors were mostly muted, a handheld camera was used liberally, and there were less close ups overall. It made the Guerilla seem like a much colder, more chaotic experience, mirroring the lack of success Che had in Bolivia. It's also much more pessimistic, and it would be hard to understand what was going on without viewing the first part. It was extremely successful in portraying the malaise, desperation, and boredom of Guerilla warfare. I'd say 90% of the movie was focused on Che and the guerilla's trekking though the jungle, sick, hungry, wounded, or all of the above. They tired to convince the peasants to join them, but to no success. It's also a more "nuts and bolds" breakdown of Guerilla combat as opposed to the better rounded view of the Cuban Revolution we got in the Argentine. There's also a fair bit about the Bolivian response, backed by the US Government. It's fascinating from a historical perspective, but it was kind of tedious to watch.
Benico Del Toro does a great job as Che. They absolutely nailed the look of him, and Benico gives a pretty good low key performance. The Argentine has most of the character development and most of the political elements. Che is shown as a tough but ultimately charismatic man who deeply cares about his countrymen. I don't know a lot about Che, but the first half seemed fairly reverential. There's a lot of business about his love for his countrymen, his skills as a doctor, and his charismatic leadership abilities. The second movie balances it out a bit, because Che is seen as mostly ineffective, physically ill, and desperate. He remains committed to his ideals throughout the second film despite his struggles. Still, I've heard a lot about the executions ordered by Che, and they aren't given a lot of time in the movie, except for a short scene in the first film and some talk in his UN speech about them.
Another major drawback is the running time. At 4 hours +, you're definitely stretching the attention span of all but the most dedicated. Particularly the last film really strains the viewer, which was less entertaining, more deliberately paced, and distant than the first film. If you're not viewing the Road Show version, the second film would have a hard time standing on its own. Without the ideas and the characterizations of Che from the first movie, the second film wouldn't make much sense. Some of the films more opaque elements were lost on me. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of specific political ideas that kind of went over my head like Agrarian Reform. For a film this long, there is a ton of detail.
Che is a very ambitious, well shot, and mostly successful film. The first half is an entertaining and on the whole a better film, while the second has some issues, but is mostly successful as well.