Steven Soderbergh's Che

Two Guevara movies in one four-hour sitting

This sets up an intriguing dialectic, but whatever Soderbergh's intentions, Che is most definitely not a movie in the hyper-dramatizing tradition of D.W. Griffith or Steven Spielberg (or, for that matter, Milk). History is not personalized. As a filmmaker, Soderbergh is closer to Otto Preminger in his observational use of the moving camera, or to Roberto Rossellini, whose serenely understated period documentaries—Socrates or The Age of Medici—presented historical facts as though they were commonplace.

At its best, Che is both action film and ongoing argument. Each new camera setup seeks to introduce a specific idea—about Che or his situation—and every choreographed battle sequence is a sort of algorithm where the camera attempts to inscribe the event that is being enacted. For Che's first half, editing is crucial. Moving on two tracks back and forth in time, it demands an unusually active viewer. The second part, a grim tale straightforwardly told, only requires you keep The Argentine playing in your head.

Rebels with a causa: Catalina Sandino Moreno and Benicio Del Toro in Soderbergh's Che.
Daniel Daza
Rebels with a causa: Catalina Sandino Moreno and Benicio Del Toro in Soderbergh's Che.


Directed by Steven Soderbergh
IFC Films
Ziegfeld, December 12–18

Still, every Bolivian sequence has its Cuban parallel, which is why Che's two parts are best seen together. The second may be the more realized of the two—and could certainly stand on its own—but it is only comprehensible in the light of what has come before. Elevating Part Two to tragedy, Part One puts some hope in hopelessness—and even in history.

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