Friday, 20 April 2012

Che Part One

The first of a two part biopic of Cuban revolutionary leader Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara stars Benicio del Toro as Che. The film flicks back and forward between late 1950s Cuba and various interviews and appearances by Che in 1960s New York but the main focus of the film is the revolution itself and the part that Guevara played in it.

Although I identify myself as very left wing and have seen the fantastic The Motorcycle Diaries based on Guevara’s trip around South America I knew very little about the man or the revolution before watching this film. I was aware that it took place and that Guevara was involved as a General of sorts but that was just about the extent of my knowledge. The film does reasonably good job of explaining the reasons behind the revolution, who is fighting and why. Guevara’s political beliefs are also laid out early on and we learn more about him and his ideology through various acts and speeches.

The story is fascinating and picks up pace as the revolution sweeps across the country, beginning in the mountains and ending up in large guerrilla style street battles against government forces. I am torn as to whether I think I learned enough about Guevara as a man. On the one hand, his political ideology was a constant theme but there was very little of Ernesto. This is very much Che, as the title would suggest. A character who takes a back seat is Fidel Castro. I’d liked to have seen more of him and learned more but obviously this is a Che biopic, not a Castro film. I think someone of limited knowledge of the issues, history and people the film studies may struggle to enjoy is as much as someone who is more aware of its context. Unlike Scorsese’s biographical films which you are able to go into having never heard of their subjects, this is a film which rewards those with an understanding and perhaps leaves those without previous understanding slightly perplexed. I’d class myself as being somewhere near the middle of that spectrum and as such I enjoyed the film very much but was left wanting to know more on occasion, both about Guevara and Cuba.

Benicio del Toro’s performance as Che is incredible. He embodies him both in image and in his interpretation of the man. He looks an awful lot like Guevara throughout the film. Another double was Demian Bichir who when viewed in profile was the spitting image of the ex Cuban leader Castro. The acting throughout was excellent but due to my lack of knowledge of those involved, I am unable to say whether they were true to the people they were portraying.     

Che Part One is an interesting look at one of the most recognizable and influential people of the 20th Century. The film is very much biased towards Guevara’s point of view and as such I don’t think it is a particularly balanced film, although I would identify my ideology as closer to his than my current government so don’t mind the lack of balance. I was interested throughout but was left wanting to know more about him and the country he was fighting for. On the plus side, del Toro is excellent and the film has a great look to it.


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