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Che: Part One 

Director Steven Soderbergh frames the 1956 Cuban Revolution in a continual medium shot, his history lesson/war movie an ensemble of armed men marching towards Havana, surrounded by lush jungle greens and military khaki. Ernesto "Che" Guevara distinguishes himself in the crowd of revolutionaries as an intellectual, a medic, a warrior and a man of the people, earning respect by being smart, decisive and humble. This is intercut with---in high contrast black and white---Guevara’s visit to New York in 1964 to address the United Nations. With Benicio Del Toro utterly immersed in the title role, an almost unrecognizable Julia Ormond plays a journalist digging at Guevara’s politics, his comments and philosophy overlaying the combat sequences. Based on Guevara’s Reminiscences of the Cuban Revolutionary War, this is an engrossing---and occasionally protracted---epic, one that avoids biopic cliches and invites observation, if not a visceral involvement. The print I saw had white subtitles, which is a pain for us non-Spanish-speakers as the text gets lost in the background of some scenes, and the movie does feel like the first part of a larger story, which may frustrate those looking for a self-contained experience. That said, the commitment is worth it. (Che Part Two, coming soon, focuses on Guevara’s failed 1960s Latin American revolution.)


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