Very rarely does the Criterion Collection release a new movie, so if they do, it must be good. There was a bit of confusion when I first went to watch Che, though. There are two parts to this film, and Netflix lists it as the same movie, with part one on the first disc, and part two on the second disc. However, according to IMDB and various other sites, these are two separate movies that were shown concurrently at film festivals upon its release.
We all see the famous picture of Che Guevara on t-shirts, posters, coffee mugs, etc. You name it, chances are you can buy it with a picture of the famous South American revolutionary. But most of us, like myself before viewing this movie, did not know the story behind him.
For the sake of this review, when I talk about the various performances, I will treat the movies as one entity, but I will give separate ratings at the end.
Che does an excellent job of showing the trials and tribulations faced by the Argentinian rebel who helped get Fidel Castro into power in Cuba, and then in the latter stages of his life, try to overthrow the government of Bolivia by way of a peasant uprising.
Benicio Del Torro is stunning in the titular role, and bares a resemblance to the actual man himself. Damien Bichir is also solid as Castro.
The first film (The Argentine) was by far and a way the better of the two. It was fast-paced, and combined flashback scenes in black and white in which Guevara is giving an interviewt to American reporters in New York, and also when he pays a visit to the United Nations. There was also a lot more action, and it really delved into the close friendship between Guevara and Castro, and showed how this small-town Argentinian doctor became such a central figure in Cuba’s struggle for independence of a tyrannical government.
The second film (The Guerrilla) was a lot slower, and tackled the physiological approach of how difficult it was playing the waiting game and getting support from Bolivian peasants in the jungle atmosphere of Bolivia. It also accurately depicted was real guerrilla warfare is like.
When I finished part one, I could not wait to see the second one. But when I had finished that, I was kind of disappointed that it was not as good as the first.
What I thought the second film lacked was showing the full extent of the involvement of the CIA in the killing of Guevara. It was established vaguely, but really never developed. I was also pleasantly surprised to find Joaquim de Almeida have a role as Bolivian president Rene Barrientos. I have never seen a movie with Almeida that I did not enjoy his performance it.
So now it comes down to giving each movie a rating. The first one will get a 9 while the second will get a 7, giving a mean total of 8 to both film projects combined. I laud Steven Soderbergh for putting forth a riveting, yet accurate portrayal of one of the more fascinating political figures of the last hundred years.