CHE: PART TWO: The Film Babble Blog Review

CHE: PART TWO (Dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2008)

It would be easy, if too simplistic, to label CHE: PART ONE as “The Rise” and CHE: PART TWO as “The Fall” of the infamous Cuban Guerilla leader. The arc established between these two halves is, of course, much more layered and densely imposed to support such Ziggy Stardust-style titling. PART ONE concerned itself with Che – the man, in its Oliver Stone-ish news footage framing of his successful revolution in Havana. Not to say that it was merely set-up; it told a sound story satisfyingly ending on a resounding note of triumph. PART TWO (subtitled “The Guerrilla”) sets a decidedly different spookier tone from beginning with a SCARFACE-ean scroll telling us that Che (Benicio del Toro) has gone into hiding.

It is 1966 and Che is first shown in a remarkably unrecognizable get-up as a Uruguayan businessman with thick glasses, a shaved head, and a stiff suit – an image nobody would ever put on a T-shirt. This disguise gets him through customs into Boliva and he sets about meeting his men – fellow Guerillas in the mountains. Unfortunately there is trouble in Guerilla city (sorry) and the ragged fighters find they may be no match for the Bolivian Army. As Che assimilates into the groups of scrappy soliders, Soderbergh shoots del Toro mainly from behind reminding me of Aronofsky’s presentation of Rourke in THE WRESTLER but focusing more on Che being engulfed by his surroundings rather than that of a personal POV.

Another film that came to mind was Woody Allen’s BANANAS during the many jungle warfare scenes. In that 1971 classic comedy, New York loser schlub Allen becomes a revolutionary when on vacation in the fictional Central American country of San Marcos to impress his activist girlfriend (Louise Lasser). Since it was closer to the actual time period it had the grainy home movie look that Soderbergh was going for so maybe that’s not such a silly satirical reference point. Maybe it is though – I’ve been on a diet of Woody Allen movies since before I could walk so of course my mind would go there. This is not exactly to say, of course, that CHE: PART TWO is BANANAS without the laughs but I couldn’t resist the comparison.

That comical footnote aside, CHE: PART TWO is strongly involving and possibly superior to its other half. The deaths are more piercing and the pace is like a rapid heartbeat leading to one of Che’s asthma attacks. Even when shown sparringly, del Toro owns the screen again making my head shake at the failure of award recognition. A solid troop of actors fights fiercely alongside del Toro including Damián Bechir (again dead on as Castro), Rodrigo Santoro, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Joaquim De Almeida. For some unknown reason the theater I work at part time is showing CHE: PART TWO nightly at 7:00 with CHE: PART ONE following at 9:30. While that may not be the ideal order to see them, it won’t hurt because they have distinctly separate feels despite being one long movie split in two. Whatever the order I implore folks to see them both; they are major movies that deserve a much bigger audience – especially on the big screen.

More Later…

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