If you’ve seen the T-shirt, you can probably skip the movie. Plenty of folks will be seeking scalped tickets to the New York Film Festival’s sold-out screening of Che tonight at the Ziegfeld Theater, but Sound of the City can’t recommend you join them. It’s not as if you won’t get your chance to see Steven Soderbergh’s four-and-half hour biopic of everyone’s favorite Latin American insurgent later this fall, when distributor IFC Films plans to release Che in two installments, as The Argentine and Guerilla. But by waiting for the official theatrical release, you will be spared the cumulative, ass-numbing slog of sitting through one conventional war film on top of another.
As a lifelong Soderbergh nut—who must have seen sex, lies, and videotape half a dozen times during its original run (hey, I was a horny, confused high school senior)—I’m frankly baffled as to why the director of Ocean’s Eleven through Thirteen thought he was the right person for a picture about Marxism. Demian Bichir, who plays the young Fidel Castro, is up to the task, as is star Benicio Del Toro, who performs his Argentinian doctor-cum-revolutionary with necessary restraint. But Che glosses over Guevara’s many contradictions (e.g. he took the Hippocratic oath, while endorsing violence) and despite the film’s engorged length, Soderbergh’s vision of his sainted hero has all the political insight and intellectual depth of a silkscreen print.—Benjamin Strong