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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 23 September 2007
Sometimes a movie comes along that shows you exactly what the filmmaking art is all about. The Motorcycle Diaries is just such a movie. It deals with the trials and tribulations of the young Ernesto Guevara de la Serna whilst he was still a medical student and before he became slightly more famous as "Che" Guevara, and his friendship with Alberto Granado, a fellow medical student as they take an eye opening and often hazardous motorcycle trip across the South American continent.
Along the way, the two friends encounter women and adventure in equal measure, as well as hostile locals, friendly locals, illness and danger, but are most affected by what they witness the treatment meted out on the native populations (or what remains of them) by locals. It is this factor that influences young Ernesto the most, and obviously what drives him to become the famous (or to some infamous) revolutionary he would be most remembered as. Granado on the other hand sees the whole thing as a big adventure at first, but whilst it takes him longer to awaken his social conscience, when he does the transformation is all the more uplifting.
As Ernesto, Gael Garcia Bernal gives a committed performance as a relatively privileged young man from a well to do family who, as his journey progresses, realises that much of his own privilege is gained at the expense of others and ultimately gives him the first inkling of his life's calling (to quote Alberto "I am not me anymore, at least I am not the same me I was"). The fact that Bernal is a highly charismatic young actor also helps to humanise the man who would become "Che" (which is actually utilised by Argentineans in much the same way as "dude" or "mate" is used by us), and allows us to empathise with his social awakening to the inequities of not only his own country but the continent as a whole.
That is not to say that Rodrigo de la Serna as Alberto is any less watchable than Bernal. Initially coming across as a chubby, fun loving man who sees the journey as nothing more than an excuse to get laid in a variety of countries, his journey from self satisfaction into a more well rounded human being is all the more satisfying because he has much further to go.
On top of a couple of top notch performances, director Walter Salles has crafted a truly beautiful movie, breathtaking in scope and wonderful to look at (particularly when the two friends reach the Incan city of Machu Pichu). The film also has a number of noteworthy and often very touching scenes, in particular an extended section when the two friends stay and help out in a leper colony, something that has a deep impact on both of them, as well as the viewer.
Part road movie, part travelogue, part adventure and part social commentary, this is a film that has much to offer both the casual viewer and the more committed cinephile. Do not be put of by the subject matter, a deep understanding of "Che" Guevara is not necessary to enjoy this film, or the undoubted political slant, neither is a hindrance to the viewer's enjoyment. Ultimately a movie about two friends and their deeper understanding of each other and the world around them as a result of their experiences.
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on 23 June 2009
Whilst I enjoy a good blockbuster film, it's great to see intelligent and thoughtful films beginning to be issued on Blu-ray. This is a film that really draws me in and holds my attention throughout - I soon forget that I'm reading subtitles as the film gets under way. Reviewers of the DVD have expressed well the film's great qualities - I shall therefore comment on the Blu-ray presentation. The film does look slightly grainy, but it obviously didn't have the huge budget of a glossy Hollywood production so that's not surprising - and somehow it adds to its charm. Otherwise the transfer is fine and with the enhanced detail over the DVD, it looks great on a big screen. I haven't watched the extras yet, but there's over an hour of them (in SD). Well worth the extra cost for the Blu-ray version.
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I watched this film when I was in a miserable mood and it really uplifted me! It's an interesting and beautiful film with just enough detail to get you keen to learn more about Che's life.

I would recommend this film to anyone who needs reassurance that there are people out there who can make such a difference and inspire others!

It also makes you want to fly over to Peru- what wonderful landscape!!!
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on 27 February 2005
Let me start by stating in clear terms that those that are looking for the story of El Che as a revolutionary will be disappointed, since the film does not stretch into this area of his life. This is what happened to my wife, who was expecting a lot more than the movie delivered, but luckily I was aware of what the topic was, and found it extremely interesting. The reason being that it depicts extremely well how Ernesto Guevara grasped the reality of the Latin American and its people, and how these facts affected and changed him into what he later became.
At the beginning, we find two friends, Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Alberto Granado, who have an urge to really get to know South America, to get away from civilization and to get closer to the land. That is why they decide to go on a road trip that will take them throughout the continent, exploring areas that they only know about through books. They leave Buenos Aires with the goal of reaching Venezuela in four months; their equipment is an old motorcycle, "The Mighty One", and the method to reach their goal is improvisation.
The two friends show striking similarities in their way of looking at the world, but also considerable differences in their behavior. Alberto is more gregarious and can convince other people of almost anything through the use of his wit and talents as a kind of "con artist". Ernesto, a student of medicine, who is close to getting his degree, is more introverted and takes things a lot more seriously. And even though the movie does not go deeply into his ideology, it still shows how vigorously he reacts to injustice and need.
In my opinion, the director Walter Salles tried to provide the viewers with a morsel of the experiences of El Che in this trip, but without going too deeply into an ideology that would make some people uncomfortable. I understand that in this way, Salles is trying to attract a wider audience; those that are interested in going deeper, will have to do it using additional sources. What the movie does do, is provide the viewers with spectacular images of an amazing continent. The breathtaking scene in Machu Pichu is one of the highest points in this area, and the reflections about how the Spanish exterminated the amazing Inca civilization filled me with sorrow and regret.
Gael Garcia Bernal proves that he has all the qualities that make a successful actor, presenting a polished performance. He even delivers a very believable Argentinean accent, and the only department in which he comes short is the physical differences with El Che, but of course, there is not much he can do regarding this. Rodrigo De la Serna holds his end of the bargain pretty well, especially through his spontaneity, adding a humorous tone that helps move things along.
The extras include a couple of deleted scenes that I would not have excluded, and an interview with the real Alberto Granado, who has been living in Cuba for a long time. There is also a brief interview with Santaolla, who did an outstanding work with the music in this film, by incorporating the sounds of South America. The music includes an inspiring song that has been nominated for an Oscar: "Al Otro Lado del Rio" by Jorge Drexler.
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on 15 February 2005
"This is not a heroic journey," begins the film, "rather a story of two lives that ran in tandem for a while"...or something like that.
Visually, this film is beautiful - the cinematography is stunning, scooping up both the magnificence and romance of the open road and the culture of South America in bucketfuls. It's touching - a warming story of friendship and common journeys. It's also quite amusing at times.
But, for me, Motorcycle Diaries is not so much about what happens on screen. Rather, it's beauty lies in the importance of the journey as a 'coming of age' for two men. It's a film about those times in life when you do run in tandem with one or more others; the effects of these experiences; and what one does with them when they end.
The journey is therefore not just about a bike ride. As you'll probably know, one of the men starting out on the journey is the revolutionary (and trusty student icon!) Che Guevara. But it's through the eyes of both of men that one witnesses this 'coming of age' - and eventually just through the eyes of Alberto Grenato (Che's friend). I won't give the end away, but it finishes with a explanation of the events that unfold in the years after the trip. Very moving indeed.
So, if you're stirred and inspired by stories of human journeys, friendship and destiny, this might be one for you.
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on 18 February 2005
This movie tells us the story of two young men, and the adventure that would change the way they saw the world. The travellers, medical student Ernesto Guevara and biochemist Alberto Granado, decide to start a journey across South America. In January 1952 they begin their quest in an old motorcycle, without too much money but eager to visit new countries in order to learn more about South America and its inhabitants. As minutes go by, you will start to feel part of their journey, and absorb the different scenes, events and people that end up making an indelible impression on them.
Gael García Bernal plays a believable Ernesto Guevara, the person that would later be known as "Che". Rodrigo de la Serna is just as convincing as Alberto Granado, and he makes us laugh from time to time with his antics. However, the main characters aren't them, but the people they encounter in their travels, and that add up to represent people of all South America who suffered from differents kinds of injustice. We aren't shown the people that were well-off, although we get a glimpse of their lives when Ernesto visits his girlfriend before he starts his journey. Rather, we are faced with the problems of those who lived in less fortunate circumstances, for example aborigines that had been expelled of their lands, or poor people that couldn't find a job and had to travel looking for one. The spectator is also shown people who helped those in need, for example in the hospital for leprosy patients that Ernesto and Alberto visited with the purpose of learning more about the disease...
"The Motorcycle Diaries" is based on the two books that Guevara and Granados wrote about their travel: "The Motorcycle Diaries" by Guevara and "With Che Through Latin America" by Alberto Granado. It is highly likely that those books helped Brazilian director Walter Salles to make a film that sounds so true, but he obviously also contributed, and a lot, to make a film that is far from the banal, and that appeals to those who watch it. I think that it is also worthwhile to point out that the director avoided any kind of ideological preaching, something that could have been tiresome. Salles stresses, instead, that the journey was an occasion for self-discovery...
All in all, I think that you won't regret watching "The Motorcycle Diaries". It isn't an eulogy about "Che" Guevara but rather a film that gives us the chance of learning what kind of experiences molded the way in which he viewed things. If you aren't interested in that, you can just consider this movie an opportunity to appreciate the scenery of some really beautiful places in South America, and to enjoy the adventures of two young men that embarked on the journey of a lifetime...
Belen Alcat
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on 12 July 2005
"The Motorcycle Diaries" is one of those rare films that one should see on the big screen. Having just watched the film on dvd, I wished that I did take the time to see the film in the theatre last year. The film is based on a road trip that the late Communist/Latino revolutionary Ernesto `Che' Guevara took with his best friend Alberto Granado in South America. The two friends wanted to explore South America as they have never seen it. Gael Garcia Bernal from "Y Tu Mama Tambien", and "Bad Education" plays the young Ernesto `Che' Guevara and Rodrigo de la Serna as Alberto Granado. The first half of the film begins as a road flick where two friends decides on a whim to travel the country by motorcycle but during the second half, the viewer sees the nature of the film turn serious as Ernesto and Alberto starts encountering various locals who are impoverished and are suffering under the tyranny of their local government. Gael Garcia Bernal's performance as a young Che Guevara was truly impressive. There is a quiet intensity about him as an actor that made me believe that he was Che Guevara. Rodrigo de la Serna was a delight to watch as Che's womanizing, playful companion and was just as much fun to watch as Gael Garcia was as Che. The scenery was breathtaking. I truly felt like I was in South America personally. Throughout the first half of the film I always wondered where on earth the two friends found gas for the motorcycle because all I saw was them driving in desolated areas of the country where there is no gas stations. The Latin-tinged film score was excellent. It complimented each scene. Nothing loud and bombastic like in American films where the music almost overwhelms the scenes. The second hour of the film is easily the strongest moments of the film. Seeing Che and Alberto interact with the patients of a leper colony was deeply moving. I especially liked the interaction between Che and a young woman who refused to have surgery. Another great scene was when Che and Alberto arrived at the colony and shook hands with a couple of the residents without gloves as a symbolic gesture. All in all I loved the film. The performances by Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna were excellent and were a joy to watch. The bonus features were far from disappointing. Lots of bonus goodies. I really enjoyed the making of the film and the conversation with Alberto Granado.
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on 25 February 2005
This was a thoughtful, poetic and engaging film charting the adventures of two young men enjoying their first adventure together. They set off on an epic voyage intending to cover a sizeable part of the (to us) mysterious continent of South America on an old 1939 Norton motorcycle. It's not long before they are forced to rethink their plans and the experiences that befall this medical student and that biochemist clearly have a radical effect on them and change the course of their lives. The film portrays two refreshingly normal young men who are not especially heroic or driven, except by the impulse to find a girl and make love to her. However their encounters with the underclasses of the countries they travel through profoundly affect their thinking. It's a beautiful snapshot of the moulding of a man who went on to change history and become an icon and the scenery is magnificent. There are several moments of humour and a very few of pain and the screenplay does not preach or set out an agenda. I thoroughly recommend this movie.
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on 8 December 2004
Beautiful, funny and touching. The Motorcycle Diaries is based on the diaries of a young Che Guevara and his travelling-companion Alberto Granado, two medical students, on an epic journey around South America. The film does not force a political agenda, rather it gently documents Che's political awakening as he comes face to face with the hardships faced by his countrymen and women, and the realisation of the stark contrast which exists between rich and poor.
The film succeeds in avoiding a drift into sentimentality or glorification of a controversial man and a controversial topic. Tone, script, visuals, direction and acting are all wonderful. Overall, an excellent film.
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on 19 September 2012
Firstly this is my one of my favourite films of all time so wanted to purchase it on Blu Ray. I had read online that the transfer was very poor, but I was hoping the reviewers were just being picky...

...Unfortunately they weren't - it really is the worst Blu Ray I have in my collection by some distance, it is no better than the DVD. So I wouldn't bother buying this if you already have it on DVD. Shame as it is such a fantastic film
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