Review: Che: Part 1

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Steven Soderbergh’s latest feature film, Che, vividly renders the Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara, in his struggle to effect the Cuban revolution. It begins with the birth of the revolution, when Ernesto “Che” Guevara (Benicio del Toro) meets Fidel Castro (Demian Bichir), and their plans to fight to the death take flight.

Screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the reception was very positive, with Del Toro picking up the award for Best Actor. And deservedly so. Del Toro inhabits the character of Che Guevara in a subtle, understated yet impassioned way. Che is portrayed as a visionary revolutionary with many sides. He can be brutal, but it is only out of love for humanity that he fights. Throughout, Che never loses his wry sense of humour, and the story is carried along effectively by intermittent moments of comedy, as the revolutionary force wades its way through the jungle.

It is certainly a film that is bound to renew one’s faith in contemporary filming, as its serious tone and fine acting all show what Soderbergh and Del Toro can be capable of. Interestingly, the director decided to shoot the film almost exclusively in Spanish, defending this decision with the belief that “You can’t make a film with any level of credibility in this case unless it’s in Spanish. I hope we’re reaching a time where you go make a movie in another culture, that you shoot in the language of that culture. I’m hoping the days of that sort of specific brand of cultural imperialism have ended.”

The next instalment of this enthralling biopic, Che: The Guerilla, is scheduled for release in the UK in February 2009.

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