Che | Steven Soderbergh , 2008
Ambitious projects of this magnitude that are financed by an independent company are quite rare. So, I’m quite excited for any projects such as this are being developed. During the production everything seemed to be aligning to be an amazing experience. It had a great story (even if you don’t like Che Guevara you have to admit he had quite the story), a director who had wanted to tell the story for his whole life, a great below-the-line team, and a great Oscar-winning actor who seemed to had been born for the role. However, things didn’t quite go that way.
Che tells the story of Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Benicio Del Toro), Argentinian Doctor, Revolutionary, and future t-shirt icon. Part one, The Argentine, tells the story of his involvement in the Cuban revolution and how he came about joining Fidel Castro. Part two, Guerilla, is about his disappearance from Cuban and eventual failed attempt at bringing the revolution to Bolivia. Along the way we meet some other important members of the revolution and people who meant a lot to Che.
As I’ve said, the movie ultimately disappoints, and I think the reason why it did not live up to its potential is the ambition of the project. On paper, the concept of spreading Che’s revolution story into two films seems great. However, the finished product was not as good. Each individual movie is too long and full of unnecessary parts. For example, in The Argentine, the UN, TV interviews are superfluous and only slowed down the film. In Guerilla, the part involving Franka Potente was not necessary. This is not the only thing that brings things down.
Aside from Del Toro’s great performance, every other performance is weak. The actors look at the camera and don’t seem comfortable. Also, cameos by Catalina Sandino Moreno and Matt Damon were distracting, no matter how brief the latter was. The weakest of them all was Damian Bichir as Fidel Castro. This could have been an Oscar-worthy performance, but he was horrible. His accent was not good enough, his mannerisms, everything about it did not fit the character.
But not all things were bad. As I said, Del Toro is brilliant. And the below-the-line crew do their best here. I’m a fan of the cinematography. Soderbergh clearly knows how to work his his cinematographers to create beautiful images.
Soderbergh’s Che could have been more than it was. He clearly was passionate abou the subject, but the scripts do not have enough good material to spread across two films. It would have been better if it had been one film. But since it was not, I’d say that part two is better than one, although neither is particularly great. There are good things about it, but it is still a disappointment.