The Red Right Hand
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CHE
Part I - El Argentino
Everyone Knows The Icon. Few Know The Man.

Director
Steven Soderbergh

Starring
Benicio Del Toro
Demian Bichir
Julia Ormond

Listeners of my podcast will know that I recently went to Cuba, where the image of revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara is stamped everywhere. The problem with filming a biography regarding an icon is dealing with the baggage, prejudices and pre-conceptions that come along with it. I believe this film to be an honest, fair and loyal portrayal of the man - having read many of his diaries and books about his thoughts and strategies - but that does not necessarily mean it's going to go down well.

Without prejudice or bias I can honestly say that unlike most idiots sporting a Che badge or t-shirt, I have researched the man and his ideals. The thing that made him an icon was his unwavering conviction for equality and freedom. His thoughts on how to obtain it, however, I tend to disagree with. I must confess, I do not know of a single nation that has established, maintained and enforced a revolution without acts of violence and force but that doesn't mean I condone it. Alright, that's the politics out of the way. No doubt I'll receive plenty of emails about that.

To quickly explain, Steven Soderbergh filmed an epic, four hour long movie about the rise and fall of Che Guevara, starting with his success in Cuba and eventual capture and execution in Bolivia. After problems with distribution and running times, the film was cut into two individual parts entitled The Argentine and Guerrilla. As an American director, Soderbergh will have never been to Cuba but thankfully this in no way hinders the film; the substituted the jungles and towns successfully recreate the necessary look and feel of the island during the sixties. As a project, Che is incredibly ambitious. Trying to detail and encompass so much around such a controversial individual is a task most would dread. However, at this point in Soderbergh's career, he has built-up enough muscle and clout to sufficiently undertake almost any project he wants. A fact which becomes apparent as the film darts back-and-forth in time, switching between cameras, lenses and visual styles and the rather long, steady pace that flows throughout; strangely enough, none of these factors serve as a detriment to the overall but simply contribute to the final piece.

So, other than almost perfect direction, the film is also graced with a keen script and an array of acting talent. However, therein lies one of the films largest flaws. I realise this is a film focusing on one man but so many other faces pass on-and-off screen so quickly, only to be covered by bushy beards that it's a little difficult to identify between them. I'm not stating that as a racial implication or whatever, simply highlighting a writing element that removes almost all of the back-story that fleshes out the characters. All-in-all, the movie is a fascinating study that's wonderfully directed and beautifully acted. I can only hope the second part is as rewarding.

Release Date:
2nd January 2009

The Scene To Look Out For:
It's very difficult to cut and dissect a film that details so much. If I were to break it down into key parts I suppose I could say there were four or five distinctive locations. These are scenes in the jungle, battle scenes in Santa Clara, delegations in New York and in the company of Castro. One of the most memorable scenes was Che's address to the UN, namely the OAS (Organised States of America). The performance is captivating, the sincerity of the message clear and the cinematography, sterling.

Notable Characters:
As stated, the film focuses solely on the exploits of Che Guevara and as such Del Toro gives an absolutely astounding performance but those around him also provide decent offerings. In particular there was Rodrigo Santoro as Raul Castro, Demian Bichir as Fidel Castro and most notably Santiago Cabrera as Camilo Cienfuegos.

Highlighted Quote:
"I would rather walk to Havana than arrive in a stolen car; take it back"

In A Few Words:
"Poignant and evocative bio-drama, with an exceptional lead performance"

Total Score:
8/10


Matthew Stogdon