66 of 74 people found the following review helpful
Strong words softly spoken,
This review is from: Che - Part One and Part Two [DVD] (DVD)A fascinating life story that was both turbulent & doomed is told with subtlety & restraint. Where many would have made a summer blockbuster war movie Steven Soderbergh instead paints with a gentle hand so that an almost serene & dreamlike quality is achieved. Many saw this as ideal material for Oliver Stone, with opportunity aplenty for dramatic shots of soldiers dying and a relentless pounding anti-war theme. In some respects, on occasion, Stone's pace & drama would be welcome but on the whole would have left this unbalanced & unfocused.
We follow Che from his first meetings with Fidel Castro quickly through to his involvement in guerilla warfare in a battle to take control of Cuba. Scenes of 'in the field' fighting & training are interspersed with black and white newsreel style scenes of his time in New York. The first 15 minutes are a little confusing as the timelines flit all over the place but eventually things settle down and a juxtaposition between his role as representative and soldier.
At first the battle sways back & forth with Battista's forces holding the stronger ground but bit by bit the revolution begins to take hold and the inevitable victory finally arrives. It is at the moment of victory, with Che on his way to Havana that the first part ends.
The second part see's Che head off to mainland South America in the hope of effecting change across the continent. Starting in Bolivia he begins to start another training campaign but his deteriorating health begins to hold him back & the battle is a wholly different one to that faced in Cuba.
Soderbergh uses handheld cameras for the second half so that gone are the slow, steady sweeping shots of stunning tropical scenery to be replaced with juddering , jarring shots of claustrophobic jungle that closes in on Che as his soldiers fall and the inevitable approaches.
This was never going to be a laugh riot and sure enough as the story progresses so that dreamlike feeling returns, whereby the main character seems to be constantly running but unable to get away & becoming increasingly helpless. However he remains defiant & assured of his mission throughout.
From stunning scenery to sudden bloody battles and moments of camaraderie throughout a vivid & memorable picture is revealed of Ernesto Guervara. To this end Benicio Del Toro is quite outstanding in his portrayal of Che. No grandstanding or scene stealing here in fact quite the opposite as he plays his character as a quiet & thoughtful man, more at ease working amongst the people as a doctor yet always wishing to return to the jungle to fight once more. Ruthless yet insistant that his soldiers be literate & show respect for the peasants that they come across. The scenes with him struggling to overcome his increasingly debilitating asthma are a tribute to the subtlety and deftness of touch that this actor brings to the role. Del Toro didn't miss out on an Oscar, he was robbed!
This has been a little sidelined in the media as being 'worthy',(a euphemism for boring), and too long. True enough any film in excess of 4 hours is going to test the nerve endings in your butt however a little patience is a small price to pay for such an enjoyable & thoughtful film experience. This avoids the heavy political stance that Stone would no doubt have brought to the table,(although with such a long look at one man there was always going to be a little bias), and can easily be watched as a biopic of a true one of a kind man. Agree with his motives and ideals or not this makes for a fascinating & very watchable movie that is well worth your time.
The picture is excellent, particularly in the first half with vibrant, deep colours. The sound too is well mixed with extensive use of the sub in battle scenes and excellent separation. Too the dialogue is centered well and clearly,( a nice touch whenever Che is being interviewed off camera during a scene is the first word or two being in Spanish but then fading into English as he speaks),.
The extras are extremely poor and sound a loud warning that there is very likely to be an all bells & whistles edition at some point in the future.
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Initial post: 5 Jul 2009 23:18:18 BDT
E. J. Smith says:
Great review. I, too, give the movie four out of five stars. The presentation was powerful and historically accurate. The only problem I have with the story is that Che's years as a Cuban government Minister between 1959 and 1965 are only alluded to and no attention was paid to Che's first attempt to export revolution in the Congo beyond an oblique reference after his capture at La Higuera. The 'educated' viewer will understand that Che was first and foremost a revolutionary. However, these years were as critical to his formation, to his tragic end result, and to the ongoing mythology, as was his motorcycle journey through South America in 1951-52. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this film.
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