Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Benicio Del Toro as Che

This film covers the career of the Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. This film is not directed in a standard chronological style but ,in the

 

 

words of Wikipedia, “an oblique series of interspersed moments along the overall timeline”. The film is somewhat impressionistic and although anyone can enjoy this film as a “revolutionary action film” it does require at least some knowledge of the life of Che Guevara and the events of the Cuban Revolution to fully understand what is going on.in the words of Wikipedia, “an oblique series of interspersed moments along the overall timeline”. The film is somewhat impressionistic and although anyone can enjoy this film as a “revolutionary action film” it does require at least some knowledge of the life of Che Guevara and the events of the Cuban Revolution to fully understand what is going on.he film has its origins in a screenplay written by the film maker Terence Malik about Che’s attempt to start a revolution in Bolivia. Due to financing problem’s Malik’s proposed film fell though and Soderbergh agreed to take over the project. In taking on the making of a film about Che Soderbergh felt that it was important to provide the context of the Cuban Revolution and the events leading up to Che’s eventual departure from Cuba. Steven Soderbergh has been known as a film maker with leftist sympathies but he has not been regarded as a leftist or highly political film maker. He has been more commonly known as the director films such as the Ocean’s Eleven remake and Erin Brokovich although he has also directed more unconventional films such as Sex, Lies, and Videotapes. According a review in to Rajesh Ginraajan’s blog “Scorp Says So” the film could be seen as a complex collaboration between Malik, the actor Dell Toro (who was heavily influenced by Jon Lee Anderson’s 1997 Che biography “Che Guevara, A Revolutionary Life” but who is said to have read “every possible book on Che”), Soderbergh, and the screenwriter Peter Buchman, who has had a longtime interest in historical biographyhe film is four and a half hours long. It is deeply engrossing, even without an extensive knowledge of the historic subject, and is definitely worth the the greater investment of time.

 

Che has two parts. The first part, “The Argentine”, covers Fidel and Che’s early friendship and the events of the Cuban Revolution. We see Che and Fidel meeting at in Mexico City in 1955 and their discussions within the international Latin American leftist mileu. Che joins the July 26th Movement to liberate Cuba and we see him aboard the Gramna in his guerilla invasion of Cuba in 1956.

There is an extended section with Che fighting and in the jungle region of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. He has periodic meetings with Fidel Castro and there seems to be increasing tension between the two men. This isn’t made apparent in the film but this was the period when their was increasing tension between the middle class oriented July 26th movement and allied movements, which merely wanted to overthrow Batista, and Che and other radicals who saw the need for a deeper anti-capitalist and nationalist revolution. Che is shown as a very able and well liked commander but a somewhat harsh disciplinarian. There is a scene where he personally execution executes a guerilla army guide who admits to betraying the guerilla’s position for a large financial reward. Che is also shown as a voracious reader, devouring texts on history and political theory. He teaches literature and history to his troops and works to raise their cultural level.

Later in the first half of the film as the Cuban rebels enter the cities there are dramatic but very realistic scenes of Che and a female friend fighting urban guerilla warfare in the Battle of Santa Clara.

A leading commanders of Batista’s army, turns against Batista offers to surrender his army to the rebels in return for allowing his army to remain intact. This offer is turned down by the rebels.

The second part of the film is “The Guerilla”. The film technique of the second half is much different than that of the first. The music score is different and the film ratio is much smaller, leading to a more tense, “claustrophobic” feeling. The second part covers Che’s role in early revolutionary Cuba and subsequent career as a revolutionary outside of Cuba. Che holds trials of the most hated and repressive members of the former Batista regime. Che becomes one of leaders of Cuba’s economic transition from capitalism to socialism and is appointed director of the Bank of Cuba. Amid greatly escalating tensions between Cuba and the US Che looks forward to meeting the visiting Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev but this is nixed by Castro. Che appears to become increasingly frustrated at his role in Cuba although the background to this is not explored in the film.

An early highpoint in this second section of the film is Che’s famous “Address to The Tricontinental” speech in 1966 before the UN in New York. This speech blasts Western and US imperialism,and the internal oppression and hypocracy of the US, to the wild applause of many delegates. This is the speech where Che publicly explained his “focii” theory of revolution for the first time and predicted “one, two, many Vietnams” to oppose imperialism. This scene is interspersed with interviews Che gave, including the one where he famously said, “At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”

Around this time Che became increasingly critical of both what he saw the Soviet Union and the “Eastern Bloc’s failure to aid and solidarize with Third World struggles and increasingly upset about the bureaucratization of the Cuban Revolution. This is strongly hinted at in the film but does not seem to be fully explored. In a 1966 speech in Algeria Che called for Third world solidarity and criticized the Soviet Union. In criticizing Cuba’s major ally, and growing bureaucratic tendencies within the Cuban Revolution, Che’s position was in Cuba was made untenable and some Marxist historians today feel Che reached a political point point where his departure from Cuba was almost inevitable.

In 1966 Che leaves Cuba. There is a moving but again very realistic farewell scene with his second wife. Che and some assistants are able to expertly disguise Che as his father, whom with makeup he strongly resembled.