Mike ponders the end of CHE in PART TWO

After the heady successes and awesome guerrilla scenes of CHE PART ONE (THE ARGENTINE in the States) I was hugely looking forward to the second half of Steven Soderbergh's epic. Would it look at how how Che coped with the change in nature of Fidel's regime from populist uprising to dictatorship? Would it look at how and why Che fomented revolution across Africa and South America? Actually, what it does is look at the in-depth world of a guerrilla fighter again - but when revolution fails to take hold. Focussing on Guevara's time in Bolivia as described in his Bolivia Diaries, Part Two is a painful charting of the decline of a great man that gets deeply involved in the character of the man as he is pushed to the limit by adverse circumstances. Like the first half of the epic, Soderbergh is at pains to show the nitty gritty of guerrilla life. The training, the setting up camps, the hiding, the necessary interaction with skeptical peasants and the desperate bid to win them over. But rather than punctuating this with pitched battles Soderbergh merely offers a few desperate skirmishes (which admittedly look just as good as earlier battles) and bleak cuts to American interventions and Bolivian government operations that increasingly undermine the work of the revolutionaries. Del Toro continues his difficult task with marvellous effectiveness, depicting the resilience and constant ingenuity of Guevara with combined power and plausibility that outshine any of the great performances of the last year. He is ably supported by a new cast of guerrilla fighters and oddly joined by German actress Franke Potente, who puts in a great turn, and Matt Damon who shows up for a surprising cameo. As a standalone film this is far less enjoyable than the first. This is at least partially because a slow tortuous failure is far less exciting than the raucous underdog success of Part One, but is also because there are fewer editing jumps to before and after the main events of the narrative. These temporal shifts keep the viewers on thinking and maintain a quick pace, but Part Two prefers instead to throw you into the depths of the mire Che finds himself in during the Bolivia campaign. There is no escape from the close quarters the camerawork puts us in, and the cuts to anti-guerrilla tactics from Bolivia and the US merely compound this sensation of being trapped. Of course although this makes it less fast-paced and enjoyable, it is a very clever move which helps those who identify less with with the man and his motives to feel his frustration. As a whole, the Che epic is an astounding insight into the man behind the icon. A testament to the acting of Del Toro and directing of Soderbergh, it is a wonderful insight into a world of revolutionaries that rarely exists in today's world. The attention to detail with which Guevara is constructed confounds his mythological status and provides a valuable look into what his world was like. The film, and Part Two particularly, does assume a lot of prior knowledge (or assumptions) and at times feel like it is made for those who are interested in Guevara rather than the casual cinemagoer. However there is enough in there to engage and entertain for the duration - which is not a bad achievement for four hours of filmmaking about a historical figure.

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Michael J Edwards hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.