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Che: Part One

August 8, 2014

Che: Part One (2008)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Actors: Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir, Catalina Sandino Moreno

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Synopsis: Argentine, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) joins Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolutionary army in 1955, and slowly establishes himself in the forefront of that guerrilla movement as Castro’s forces move steathily north toward Havana in 1957/58. This is juxtaposted with Guevara visiting the United Nations in 1964 on behalf of Cuba, reflecting on the legacy of their revolution.

Review: Steven Soderbergh’s noble trudge through a ground-level account of the Cuban Revolution as seen through our notional conduit, Che Guevara, is an utterly admirable cine-project and a quite spectacular feat of logistical filmmaking. On those terms, Soderbergh deserves huge praise, and, if nothing else, it re-confirms his position as one of the pre-eminent literary, narrative-focused directors in world cinema today.

Everything in Soderbergh’s method is subservient to story, and similar to the thought-process in his other more challenging works (Out of Sight, Traffic and Solaris), he uses obvious colour-coded schema to reflect the different timelines and sensibilities of his narrative. Che’s travails in Castro’s guerrilla army are photographed in a lush, chromatic tone that really accentuates the pastoral beauty of Cuba that the revolutionaries are romantically fighting for, while the 1964 UN flash-forwards are shot in a stark black-and-white, possibly acting as dramatic harbinger to a future Che – already de facto redundant Marxist poster-boy, looking dangerously out of sync with the modern world around him. Perhaps my only slight critique of Che: Part One is that Soderbergh works so hard to play against the iconic baggage of Che, that the film is almost a touch too tasteful, too austere. (August 2014)

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