Che Part 1 15 (2008)
Dir: Steven Soderbergh; Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Benjamin Bratt, Demian Bichir, Kahlil Mendez, Rodrigo Santoro, Santiago Cabrera
It’s funny how student paraphernalia hasn’t changed one jot in the last twenty years even though the majority of undergraduates swim happily in a comfortable sea of apathy, dreaming of the day they can stop playing around at being philosophers and paddle towards the bright lights of investment banking. The standard issue over-sized Che Guevara t-shirt warms many a conscience in bed, sleep made easier by the knowledge that the system can be changed from the inside, though the cold, dead eyes staring back from the bathroom mirror every morning say otherwise.
Che Guevara is such an iconic figure that sometimes it’s difficult to remember who he was. Bits of his story have been told before, most attractively represented by Gael Garcia Bernal in The Motorcycle Diaries, which charted a post-medical school trip across South America in the early 1950s, a journey that politicised the young Guevara.
Del Toro and Sodenbergh take the story from 1955, where Che meets Fidel Castro, who deposed Cuban dictator Batista only to become a dictator himself, and joins a small rebel invasion party. With Guevara as a driving force both on and off the battlefield, the proceed to try and unite all the rebel factions with one thing in mind (well, for Che at least): to create a new kind of society.
It’s a vivid account of the war, drawing on Guevara’s own reminiscences of action, and Del Toro succeeds in portraying him as a committed, intellectual fighter, keen to ensure the resistance army don’t engage in improper behaviour and to try and teach them all to read and write, for “a people who cannot read and write are a people easy to deceive”.
All in all, it’s an interesting, exciting film and I shall look forward to watching Part Two and making notes about it in my limited edition Che Guevara notebook from Paperchase.