Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Che

Finally, at long last, after having seen the film three days ago now, I think that it is about due time to actually get reviewing the film. Now, seeing as how the film is going to be atrociously cut in half for theatrical release, I took it upon myself that I must see this film in it's full uncut version. And I must say, at its full running length of near four-and-a-half hours, it's some experience. Okay, there was an intermission, but that's as good as I could get truth be told. Anyway, this is one of the film's that has been getting a lot of attention as of late, being a rather truthful biopic of Guevara and being critically raved, there is a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding this pic. Anyway, both parts are ground in a specific time in Che's life. The first deals with the Cuban revolution and has these scenes interspersed with Che's 1964 United Nation Speech, whereas the second part deals with the failed Bolivian campaign which brought upon his death. Now, I will deal firstly with the performance of Benicio del Toro, whose performance as Guevara has garnered the same kind of hype as Heath Ledger did earlier in the year for his role as The Joker. I feel that del Toro has done an amazing job of transforming into Guevara, doing for him what Forest Whitaker did for Idi Amin when he won the Oscar for The Last King Of Scotland. However, they are both very different performances. Compared to the manic unpredictability and eccentricities of Amin, Guevara is tepid, almost Messianic, with del Toro giving a great minimalist performance and doing a great job of holding together a movie of this length. However, as great as the performance is, I do not feel unfortunately that it is up to the Oscar level, but I will get into that later. While del Toro undoubtedly deserves credit for a great performance, the real winner in this film is in my opinion Steven Soderbergh. Soderbergh directs the film with some obvious flair, and is a man who knows his actors, and so, Che is rarely dull in it's epic running time. He clearly gets the most out of del Toro's performance, and thus it is always interesting, for which both should be credited. Also, under his working pseudonym Peter Andrews, Soderbergh makes a really picaresque, with some of the best cinematography of the year on display here. He keeps the film well lit, and uses a unique style in which there is one type of shooting technique, with it sometimes clearly being shot in digital format, others in 16mm, and to create an interesting distinguishment between the New York and Cuba scenes in Part One, shoots the New York scenes in black and white. Artistically and technically speaking, I think that it is a phenomenal looking film, with some scenes later on in Part Two being unbearably bright for dramatic purposes. However, as mentioned there, the cinematography blends with the character brilliantly in Part Two, but unfortunately, I do not feel that Che is a flawless film. For example, I did say that it was rarely a dull film. While that is true, it is a hugely detailed film, but I just somehow feel that the old saying "less is more" has come into play once again. Early on in the film, it does lag for a good amount time, and while it may well be interesting, it does nothing much in the way of story, or helping the performances, but just exists for the sake of detail. This is a fascinating film, no doubt, and if you are not otherwise informed on Che Guevara, this is essential viewing from a political standpoint, but personally I just do not feel that it has made for a sturdy, solid film. Also, while del Toro cannot really be flawed for what he has done with Guevara, it is a very limited performance. Like I said, politically, it is essential, but watching this just feels like every old Hollywood biopic we have seen before. It is smart in presenting two (three) specific points in Che's life, but the idea is not fully explored, and instead we get very dull characterisation. Yes, del Toro becomes Che, but he falls into the background. I'm not asking a bravado performance, but what I am saying is is that we do not get to know Che on the inside as a human being. Guevara is merely an enigmatic symbol to many, who want to discover who he is. None of this happens. We instead get what he stood for, which is perfectly fine, but Che is such an adaptable person for film material. I must say, as we head further into the film, in the second part known as Guerilla, there is much more character exploration, and tells you everything you already know politically from the first. It is terribly structured, with the New York sequence being interspersed unequally around the beginning the film, which all the more highlights the flaws of the first half, being dull and very lacking in the depth we would expect. To summarise, Che is an admirable film, no doubt. It has an entrancing central performance, which despite lacking initial characterisation, is a suitably subtle, well played piece of minimalist acting. Also, Soderbergh does a behemoth job as director and cinematographer of this mess. Which let's face it, it is. It feels like a jigsaw with pieces strewn over the table. It is edited poorly, and is an uneven in terms of the fact that initially, it is at times even poor, and later on has some moments of greatness. Now, it is one film, but there are two obvious parts to it, The Argentine and Guerrila. Now, I'm no master editor, but I think that if it was a non-linear film, with scattered pieces, it could pass off as solid, three-hour piece. However, if I was marketing this film, I would be putting on my chips on Guerrila. It tells you everything about Che's politics, what he stood for, and had a good bit of internal conflict in there as well. In my opinion, they could have released an Oscar nominee film with Guerrila by itself. I would go so far as to say that that in itself would be a great film, may be even a masterpiece. However, the film is a movie of two parts, and as a whole and is an interesting mess of a film worth at least one watch.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.9/10

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