Why You Should Take an Interest in Steven Soderbergh's Che
by Alex Billington
May 26, 2008
You may have heard the name Che recently or just glanced at some photos of Benicio Del Toro in character. Maybe you've just heard that there's a movie about the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara. Well, it's time you take a definite different interest in Steven Soderbergh's Che, only because it's being praised by many as a brilliant film. Unfortunately it didn't win the Palme d'Or this year, but Benicio Del Toro did end up taking home the acting prize. The title Che was given to the two-part 268-minute feature, although individually the two films are known as The Argentine and Guerrilla. I've rounded up some of the best reviews on the internet to prove to you why this is no film to simply shrug off.
I was somewhat inspired to get the word out about Che from Jeffrey Wells post on Che losing the Palme d'Or. Not only does he call it "the most exciting and far-reaching film of the Cannes Film Festival," but Wells called the actual news "lamentable [and] dispiriting" given that Che should have undeniably took the top prize. I trust in Wells enough that he knows good films, for the most part, and speaks his mind strongly when it comes to discussions like this. In a quick response after the first half, Wells called the film "brilliant" and "utterly believable," saying it's a "perfect dream movie" that's "politically vibrant and searing." Wells also praises Del Toro, saying his performance was "some kind of knock-down, ass-kick reviving of the dead."
Our own Marco Cerritos gave Che a B+ rating, calling the film "beautiful and simplistic, a sampling of one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century." As for Del Toro, he says that "Che continues to be as divisive in death as he was in life but as depicted in the film, Benicio Del Toro creates a conflicted man who sought to change the world in his own way."
Two of Cinematical's writers that were in attendance at Cannes both praised the film quite a bit. First up is Kim Voynar, who said the "the film is just amazing, in every possible way." She goes on to say that "Che is everything a biopic should be, and del Toro's performance is nothing short of astounding." And if that's not enough, she just keeps pouring praise on it, including this great paragraph.
"Soderbergh's direction is smart and assured; the film is incredibly shot and edited, the use of music is subtle, restrained and always appropriate and evocative, and the script handles the subject matter deftly, showing us more about the man behind the revolutionary history without beating us about the head and shoulders with it."
But that's not all. Cinematical's James Rocchi gives the film a glowing review as well. Rocchi gives a great explanation to the feel of both parts: "The first half of Che feels like nothing less than Lawrence of Arabia, as a charismatic outsider helps fight, and win, a seemingly impossible series of battles; the second part is a little more sad and thoughtful, as we witness Che's tragic flaw where, after creating a revolution in Cuba, he simply could not stop, and tried to re-create something irreproducible." He also praises it as much as the others before, saying that the result of Steven Soderbergh's work as director, editor, and cinematographer is "expressive, innovative, striking, exciting." And he just keeps going.
"Che is a piece of entertainment that delivers excitement, pathos and pure film making passion; it's a work of art worth thinking about and arguing about, one that opens up possibilities and encourages you to think and feel without telling you how you should think and feel. Bold, beautiful, bleak and brilliant, Che's not just the story of a revolutionary; in many ways, it's a revolution in and of itself."
If you've come across a few scathing reviews (like this one on Variety) that are claiming the film has no depth, is one big mess, and/or is far too long, don't get too worried. Soderbergh is heading back into the editing room after Cannes to work on tweaking the film before it makes its debut here in North America, which is anyone's guess at the moment. In fact, the print they showed at Cannes didn't have any credits of any sort and also included an intermission. Soderbergh recalls, "The process of editing was intense. The further you get into it, you need context. That's why you need two movies."
If everything we've provided above isn't enough to get you interested, then I'm not sure what else there is out there that would convince anyone to take an interest. This is one of those rare times where I don't need any footage or trailers to genuinely be excited. Soon enough we'll have a real trailer, but for now, I just want to see this as soon as possible. I'm confident enough in Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Solaris, The Good German, Ocean's Trilogy) that I truly expect this to be as brilliant as everyone is making it out to be. After all of the praise that it has received, I don't think anyone can shrug Che off without feeling completely awkward about such a decision. We'll be sure to follow this one as it makes its way to North America.