Release Date: Jan. 24
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Peter Buchman
Cinematographer: Peter Andrews
Starring: Benicio Del Toro
Studio/Run Time: ?IFC Films, 257 mins.
Soderbergh and Del Toro treat Che’s life as a realist epic
It’s simply audacious to make a four-hour-plus film about the guerrilla struggles of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara without ever really speaking of Guevara’s life as a doctor, his eye-opening motorcycle trips across South America, his family, his relationship with Fidel Castro or his work in the Cuban government. And that’s exactly what director Steven Soderbergh has done. But consider Guevara himself, who was far more than audacious. He was, after all, Che. Played by a fully engaged Benicio Del Toro, Guevara is full-on iconic from Soderbergh’s first black-and-white pan across him.
Depicted on a 1964 trip to the United Nations, a sequence Soderbergh returns to as needed, Che sketches the Revolutionary ideology. What follows could be half the length, but could also be double. It has Oscar contender written all over it, yet is so even-toned that ?either no scenes are Oscar clips or all are. Guevara’s marches—across Cuba in Part One, and through Bolivia’s jungles in Part Two—are deeply tedious, far from the Cuban-dreamed utopia.
Del Toro is gruff, never questing to tease out Guevara’s interior monologue. Rather, it’s Guevara’s unbendable will that centers the film and its two missions—one ascendant, one disastrous. It’s revolution both endless and ephemeral, made of hills and fields and arbitrary bits of terrain suddenly invested with great meaning. The rivers and battles and slaughtered horses are an irreducible language beyond metaphor, beyond socialism, beyond realism and beyond intensity. There, in an infinite loop of revolution, Soderbergh is victorious: Che lives.