Che: Part 2 Directed by: Steven Soderbergh Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Franka Potente, Lou Diamond Phillips Running Time: 2 hrs 15 mins Rating: unrated
Plot: After the successful Revolution in Cuba, Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) decides to go to Bolivia. There he joins the local Marxists and attempts to lead a local revolution.
Who's It For?: Have you seen Part 1? Then you might as well finish things up.
Expectations: At the end of Part 1, Che says that the revolution is just beginning. I expected Part 2 to pick up from right there and show the evolution of Cuba into the country it is today. I hoped for passionate arguments about applied Marxism and wrecked dreams.
Actors: Benicio Del Toro as Ernesto "Che" Guevara: The second film takes place in a more condensed period of time than the first. Over two years, the film follows Che from being a national hero in Cuba to his eventual death in Bolivia. Despite the limited span of the film, Che goes through a lot. The peasants of Bolivia are more distrustful than those in Cuba; he can't seem to win the minds and hearts of the people. At one period he's lost in the forest without his medicine and grows terribly ill. He becomes weak and no longer functions as the leader of his guerillas. Plus he has the added burden of being a legendary figure in Latin America, and now great things are expected of him. With all this going on, you'd think you'd be able to SEE HIS FACE. But Soderbergh continues to keep us at arm's length from Che, and what could be overlooked in the first film becomes frustrating in the second. I still felt good about Del Toro's performance, but I can't say that, by the end, I understood who his Che is. Score: 8
Franka Potente as Tania: I confess, I'm just bowled over by the fact that I've now seen Potente act in three different languages and do a kick ass job in each. She's definitely an overachiever. As in the last film, no one has a part that's nearly as large as Del Toro's, but I was impressed by her performance as a guerilla warrior. She spends a lot of the film either in trouble with Che or sick, but she seemed to fit in with these rugged men. Score: 8
Lou Diamond Phillips as Mario Monje: Yes, I did include him because he is Lou Diamond Phillips. But wow! Lou Diamond Phillips! In an Oscar contender! That hasn't happened since, oh, Stand By Me. I totally believed Phillips as a Bolivian politician, but it was a small role: he's only in a short part of the film, but he makes an impression. Score: 7
Talking: Like Part 1, this film is all in Spanish. There are some moments at the end of the film where Che is speaking to a man in the Bolivian army that feel truly genuine. Though the script isn't bad, I was really longing for more scenes like that, more insight into what makes the man work. Instead I have to form a picture using the scraps of dialogue that are thrown my way. Score: 6
Sights: Part 2 is shot in the same hand held, verite style as the first film, though it doesn't seem quite as intent on keeping us far away from the subjects. The camera gets closer, but doesn't seem to penetrate. Che's Bolivia doesn't have the brillance of Cuba. It's darker, literally: the film isn't saturated by sun, but the lack of light matches the film's tone. Score: 7
Sounds: The score for the second part of Che is more somber than the first. Moments of fun are replaced by more subtle touches. Score: 7
Best Scene: I touched on this earlier, but the final scene where Che's in a cell after being captured by the Bolivian army is by far the best. He speaks to the young man guarding him. For a few moments we get a glimpse of him as a person, with all the trappings of being a hero and revolutionary stripped away.
Ending: Around the middle of the film, it became clear that things were going downhill and Che probably wasn't leaving Bolivia alive. But the ending still felt like a let down, instead of going out fighting, Che's death scenes seem long and arduous; and they're a bit of a let down after watching him lead such an exciting life.
Questions: What is Che thinking? Did he really believe that the Bolivian Revolution would occur or was this an elaborate death wish?
Rewatchability: Yeah... but like any dramatic movie, not the sort of thing I would throw on while doing the laundry. (I heart my laundry movies). I will watch it again when I recover from the first time. And when I have 4 1/2 more hours to spare.
OVERALL The final part of Che was a slightly disappointing conclusion to the first. Initially, I had to readjust: Che mentions that he's married with a wife and five children in Mexico during the first film, and now he's married to Aleida March with five (more?) children. In the intervening years, I have no clue what has gone on in Che's life, only that he is determined to finish what he started and start a revolution that will burn all of South America. Then we go directly to Bolivia, where the film starts reminding me of Fitzcarraldo. But unlike Werner Herzog's madman, Soderbergh makes this film about the mission, not the man. So when things begin to go wrong and the chance of success looks bleak, instead of going inside Che's head, we follow his actions at arm's length. This film needed to be about Che, not just his actions, but his thoughts and plans, was he a madman or a genius? Soderbergh doesn't even posit an answer to that question, and that's what ultimately hurts the film. I watched Che for 4 1/2 hours, but I can't say I ever knew the man.
Final Score: 6/10