I have an interest in Che Guevara and his life. I had seen The Motorcycle Diaries when it had come out in the theaters and then eventually bought the movie. So when I heard that Steven Soderbergh was directing a film about Che starring Benicio Del Toro, I was intrigued. I become more intrigued when I heard it was going to be a four hour long epic. I then heard that they were going to split the film into two parts, but I wanted to see it in the original four hour long epic. This was not possible for me. I could not find it playing in the full length film, but I was able to find it in Milwaukee where it was playing in two parts. I was able to schedule it where I was able to see the films back-to-back with a small break in between the two films. The first film is about the Cuban Revolution and Che's part in organizing the revolution along with Castro. Che is portrayed as a man trying to lead a peasant revolution. He insists that his men respect the peasants that they meet. At one point, some of his men leave the revolutionary's camp and they rape a farmers daughter and take all of the farmers produce. When Che and his men eventually catch up with the wayward soldiers, the wayward soldiers are killed for disgracing the revolutionary cause. So, Che is not shown as a man who is not willing to kill his own troops or the government troops, but he still has some principles that he is fighting for. He feels that the only way to overthrow the Batista government is by violence. In the second film, we follow Che in Bolivia when he again tries to create a peasant revolution, but this time he fails. We see the failed attempts to convince the rural peasants that Che is trying to help them and the influence of the Bolivian government in working against Che. We also see the beginning of several foreign Marxist groups in working with Che and the mistrust that these foreigners and even the fact that Che is not Bolivian born creates within the Bolivian people. The film ends with Che's death by government officials in the Bolivian highlands.
I really liked both films. I had read that the first part of the film was better than the second part. I would sort of agree as seeing success is usually more interesting than watching failure. Also, the facts of the Cuban revolution are better known than the attempted Bolivian revolution, so Soderbergh was able to use some base knowledge and add upon that. But as I watched the films, both of them, I kept thinking that Che is such and icon and symbol that there is no unbiased way to make a movie about him. These films are very sympathetic toward him, he is not totally nonviolent, but his violence is supposed to be directed by principles. In this way, Che is a sympathetic character in these films, but if Che were portrayed as a violent asshole with no principles again this would show a biased. It seems to me that the truth is somewhere in between these two extremes. Che was both a violent asshole and a man who was trying to lead a revolution that he thought would benefit the poorer peoples of the countries he was leading revolutions within. I would recommend the first film definitely and would only slightly less recommend the second film if you wanted to learn more about Che and his demise, but seeing them together seems to not be crucial. On a side note, I am not sure I would want to try to see another two part film like this where I was sitting in a theater for a long time unless it was a really special set of films.