Not quite revolutionary

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

His face has covered millions of T-shirts, but Che Guevara's life and legacy has been forgotten by most, or never learned in the first place.

With the wildly (some say crazily) ambitious Che, director-cinematographer Steven Soderbergh and producer-star Benicio Del Toro are disinterested in the point-by-point rundown of defining moments usually employed in biopics, and firmly resolved to evoke the revolutionary's experience.

In other words, get ready to join ranks for a long haul that feels increasingly like a misguided slog over four hours of film, broken into two parts.

Che comes to town in a roadshow edition that screens both parts concurrently (they're also available on pay-per-view through IFC in Theaters).

The first, which roughly looks the part of a historical epic, focuses on Guevara's involvement alongside Fidel Castro (Weeds regular Demian Bichir) in the successful overthrow of Cuba's Batista regime in 1959. The second, adopting a grittier style (even a less expansive aspect ratio) deals Guevara's his 1965 disappearance, followed by his failed attempt to inspire a similar peasants' uprising in Bolivia.

Soderbergh and Del Toro follow step with Guevara's total commitment to the cause. Little comes up about his personal life, and his comrades aren't any more developed than your average war movie foot soldiers, but at its best, this approach has a mean intensity. And Del Toro embodies a charisma and intelligence that could inspire a nation of disenfranchised.

At its worst, in the second half, those Bolivian jungles can seem inescapable. To be fair, the filmmaker accurately captures the frustration of a meeting between unflinching commitment and insurmountable odds (a meeting with which the uniquely independent Soderbergh is no doubt familiar). But heading into the home stretch, you may be ready to sit that part out.


Grade: B-