UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Courtesy of IFC Films

Che: Part Two

Biopic offers many rewards but leaves out several fascinating chapters of revolutionary's life

By Drew Halfnight

Che: Part Two
Directed by Steven Soderbergh


The second instalment of Steven Soderbergh’s biopic Che covers the twilight period of the Argentine’s career as a revolutionary, which he spent in Bolivia trying to rally peasants and communists to take up arms against the government of General René Barrientos.

Like Che: Part One, which depicts the Cuban Revolution, this film takes a practical, boot-level look at the business of confronting imperialism. Almost the whole movie takes place in the dry montane forests of Bolivia, where Che’s band of international guerrilleros becomes lost, runs out of supplies, fails to galvanize the locals and finally succumbs to a Bolivian army that, unbeknownst to them, is stacked with elite U.S.-trained counter-insurgents.

Indeed, if the first part depicts the rise and triumph of Marxism in Latin America, then the second half showcases its catastrophic failure.

But the tragic aspects of the Bolivian campaign — the colossal global interests arrayed against Che, not to mention his own colossal arrogance — are understated in the film, perhaps to save the icon from the pity or gloating of a partisan viewership. We do not look on and shed tears as the stars align against Guevara. Nor do we sigh knowingly when Guevara’s cause appears to unravel and come to naught. Instead, we stick by him, even when he orders his men to steal food from peasants and stabs his horse while in the throes of a prolonged asthma attack. When he is tethered, shoeless and awaiting execution, we still sense the majesty and supremacy of his convictions.

Che: Part Two offers other rewards, including a series of dramatic, wonderfully shot scenes toward the end, as the guerrillas are hunted down and killed or captured. The exit music by Mercedes Sosa is perfect, and the closing shots of Che on a Cuba-bound boat are a touch of oblique beauty.

After watching the first instalment, one begins to wonder why the second part was made. We already possess one good film about Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries (2004). A second movie that covers a different period of his life, sure, but a four-hour epic that leaves out several of the most fascinating chapters of Che’s story, including years spent as a high-level functionary in revolutionary Cuba, a globetrotting advocate for armed revolt and a guerrilla leader in the Congo?

Soderbergh clearly wanted to make an epic that measured up to Guevara’s legacy and said something new about him. Instead, in Che: Part Two anyway, we glimpse a well-shot, well-acted vanity project that tells us relatively little about the man.

Author's photo
Drew Halfnight is a father, journalist and high school teacher in Toronto.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image