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1 review, 2 user ratings

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Che: Part Two (The Guerrilla)
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by Jay Seaver

"The end must come."
4 stars

As Part One did, "Che" Part Two opens with a geography lesson, this time showing us the landlocked nation of Bolivia. We're also given a text scroll telling us that Che Guevera suddenly disappeared from Cuba in the mid-1960s. This, and the sequence of Guevera disguising himself and making his way to Bolivia, isn't really necessary, but you've got to get from Point A to Point B somehow, especially since what comes after Point B is the more interesting part of the whole undertaking.

Guevera (Benicio Del Toro) arrives in Bolivia looking to accomplish there what he and the Castros did in Cuba, forging a group of ragtag group of rebels into a fighting force. It's complicated, though - he goes by the name Ramon in order to disguise the fact that a foreigner is leading their campaign, even though almost everybody knows who he really is. This includes President Rene Barrientos (Joaquim de Almeida), who is more than happy to have the Americans train his men to hunt Che down.

This movie is the story of Che's downfall, and, unlike Part One, it actually feels like a story. It's a rise and fall, but a steady one; we can see how the noose tightens around Che, and we've got room to speculate about whether it's mainly because of the force Barrientos throws at him or because Che is disconnected from the people he's fighting for. The pursuit provides a structure, and it is intriguing to watch things build and fall apart.

Del Toro still plays Che as something of an enigma, but he's a bit more of an intriguing enigma now. There is an aura about him, and we do wonder about his motivations - is this a man so possessed of revolutionary fervor that he feels the constant need to return to the front lines to lead the oppressed, or a thug who has found that he does not fit anywhere but the battlefield? Del Toro clearly leans toward the former, showing us Che gutting through powerful asthma, although he does perhaps overdo some of the better-known traits (aside from the asthma, odd attention is called to his pipe-smoking). During the Q&A following this screening, Del Toro mentioned that this second part was shot first, in roughly reverse-chronological order - I'm guessing so that he could bulk up and trim his beard during filming rather than vice versa, so perhaps the rough feel toward the end was just Del Toro getting a feel for the character.

The rest of the cast is good, as well; there are some more recognizable faces here - Franka Potente as the band's sole female member, de Almeida as the puffed up general trying to squash him. Unlike Part One, most of the supporting characters appear to have a part to play, rather than just showing up to have their names mentioned. I especially liked the old man pulled between Che's guerrillas and the army.

Although I felt that this second part was a superior film, and I felt that they were distinct films with their own stories and story arcs, part of what makes the second film strong is that we retain thoughts of the first; Che wouldn't quite be set up for this fall without the success and resultant arrogance we'd seen before. This film tells its story somewhat better, but no story of a life truly feels complete from just a single part.

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originally posted: 01/26/09 16:17:13
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/25/15 Bents Interesting that the film seems to move almost in real time 4 stars
2/11/10 Bob Gilmore essential viewing 5 stars
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  DVD: 19-Jan-2010


  DVD: 19-Jan-2010

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