Che: Part Two – The Guerrilla
To be completely honest, it was difficult for me to want to drive 40 minutes to a theater showing the second part of Steven Soderbergh’s massive biopic on Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. The first film was well done, the realism was at times frightening, but often, it felt like I had just watched two hours of Benicio Del Toro walking through the jungle. I attribute a large portion of this feeling due to the fact I was aware of the result of Che’s guerrilla efforts to over throw the Batista regime (somewhat ironically to replace them with a new kind of a dictator named Fidel Castro) before going into the film. What I didn’t know, is how Che spent the rest of his life, which part two covers in great detail.
Che: Part 2 starts out explaining that one day, shortly after Castro came into power, Che simply disappeared. No one, not even his wife knew exactly where he was, or what happened. An understandably troubled Cuba was comforted by the reading of a personal letter from Che to Fidel that explained it was time for him to leave Cuba to help a different oppressed people. The film skips to one year later. Che, with the use of fake teeth and the impression of male pattern baldness, sneaks into the country of Bolivia as a special representative of the Organization of American States. Only a few of his most trusted men are informed of his real identity, fearing that a revolution led by a foreigner would not be well supported. He begins organizing a guerrilla troops to overthrow the Bolivian government that denied their citizens the most basic necessities. A small amount of time is also dedicated to throwing punches at the US involvement with the Bolivian government at the time. Just for good measure I’m sure.
The look, feel and tone of the film perfectly matches part one (this is understandable since it used to be one movie). However, Che’ part two is much darker. It’s the story of truly great revolutionary slowly being beat down. The film is brilliantly shot, capturing beautiful and harsh landscapes, intimately detailing the life of a guerrilla (Soderbergh played cinematographer as well). While part two is slightly more dramatic than part one, it still suffers from a lack of tension. You don’t quite feel the struggle that the characters, and the countries they are fighting for experience. This flaw is corrected in the last twenty five minutes that will capture every viewer’s attention. It’s this ending that makes the four hours worth it. Benjamin A. van der Veen assisted Peter Buchman (who wrote the screenplay for part one) in writing part two’s script. Del Toro’s performance is terrific, but even more impressive and inspirational, is Che’s life, and belief that all deserve human rights. You’ll be enraptured with him until the credits start rolling. Somewhat confusing is the 90 second cameo of Matt Damon playing a German priest insisting the guerrillas take their fight somewhere else. Up until that point, I felt like I was in Bolivia with these men, and all of the sudden, Matt Damon walks on the set. It completely disrupted the film’s realism. Not to mention the constant appearance of Franka Potente (who played Jason Bourne’s girlfriend). This misstep aside, the film is nearly flawless. Hats off to Mr. Soderbergh for having the huevos to make such a beast of a film.