Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Demian Bichir
Everyone’s favourite revolutionary is back, in part two of Soderbergh’s epic biopic. This time, Che hits Bolivia, looking to liberate people outside of his native Cuba. But will they have any of it? No. Where Part One was a success story, the triumph of the proletariat over the oligarchy, Part Two is a tale riven by failure. A two-hour jungle traipse to the death, this is a descent into the heart of darkness. And it never once apologises for it.
Del Toro is still just as captivating as the all-wheezing, all-coughing Ernesto. Apparently now he has 5 kids, not 3. Not that we ever knew anything about them in the first place. At one point, he confesses to the mistake of forgetting his medicine – this is the closest we get to personal details. Instead, we see him smoke (boy, does he smoke) as he struggles to regain the impetus his movement once had.
Hacking his way through four hours worth of warfare, Benicio is nothing but committed to his role. He even survives his increasingly dangerous amount of facial hair; if he were up for a Leading Actor Oscar, the beard would definitely get Supporting. Unless you factor in Matt Damon’s cameo halfway through: the clear winner for 2009’s Most Pointless Appearance by an Actor.
Shirking the dodgy subtitles and jumpy structure, Soderbergh’s second half is somewhat superior to the first; never compromising in its account of Che’s near real-time downfall, it makes for more compelling cinema. Forever detached from our hero, Steven changes things up as he closes in on Che with his camera. But with no connection between us and his lead, we have to make do with physical proximity, a fleeting familiarity with his face in his final few hours.
The most significant moment appears near the end, when he suddenly cuts into first-person. A strange thing, to adopt the perspective of someone you don’t know. Strange, but affecting nonetheless.
A downhill struggle to the finish, Che: Part Two is a fitting close to a demanding double-bill.