In the second of a two part drama about the revolutionary life and times of Ernesto ”Che” Guevara, viewers are taken to Bolivia for an on-the-ground document of guerrilla warfare. By all accounts , Che: Part Two it is the film Soderbergh originally wanted to make – but which would be difficult to stand on its own.
As with the first part of this film, it’s full of exacting panoramas of strategy and combat set in the mountainous jungles of Cuba and Bolivia, where we are taken for the first scenes before following the slow downfall of a man drifting towards his death.
Instead of the frequent flash back and forth in the first part, Che: Part Two gives a linear telling to his last years – from his triumphant speech at the United Nations in 1964 to his violent death at the hands of CIA-backed Bolivian anti-insurgency troops in 1967.
The story follows the time when Che (Benicio Del Toro) tells Cuban ministers he’s off to check on their sugar cane crops then disappears. Not even his wife, Aleida (Catalina Sandino Moreno), knows he has gone until Fidel (Demián Bichir) reads Che’s letter in public. It is November of 1966 and Che leaves La Paz to begin to meet with his recruits, build camp and gather food in the forests. But the head of Bolivia’s Communist Party, Mario Monje, played by Lou Diamond Phillips, refuses financial support for armed struggle.
Che’s medical background, always useful for wounded soldiers, is used in Bolivia as a form of barter, but the small group he leads here are not only struggling for human rights – but to survive.
Del Toro gives a convincing performance as Guevera – one that won him Best Actor trophy at last year’s’ Cannes Film Festival. It adds to a rewarding, if not profound, film that offers a unique biographical portrait of a man whose image became pop culture and who represents opposing ideals to those of different political convictions.
Che is by turns scholar, guidance counselor, drill sergeant, and comandante, and Del Toro makes him a warrior-saint who learns, against his will, to cultivate a gruff bruiser facade. He yearns to be a “true revolutionary, the highest level of humanity,”