Image // R // $14.99 // May 20, 2008
Review by Daniel Hirshleifer | posted May 28, 2008
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The Movie:
Che Guevara was a revolutionary Marxist leader, who became praised and reviled around the world. He was listed as one of the hundred most influential people in Time magazine and to this day is seen as a symbol of standing up for an ideal and a philosophy. Che is a practically unwatchable half-baked attempt at bringing the man's life to the screen. Written and directed by Josh Evans, the son of famed producer Robert Evans, Che proves that sometimes talent skips a generation.

Eduardo Noriega, normally a fine actor, as seen from his work in Abre Los Ojos and The Devil's Backbone, plays the title character. In this film, Che talks. And talks. And talks. And talks. And never shuts up. The entire film is essentially a series of dialogues between Che and a rotating series of faceless characters. Some of these faceless characters are as historically important as Fidel Castro , while others are as generic as a newspaper reporter. The film never stops telling you what's happening, while never showing you anything.

Film is a visual medium. Its power lies in combining images and sound to manifest an emotional response in the viewer. Clearly Josh Evans doesn't understand this, as the film shows almost nothing. Practically every scene is a two shot, or a three shot, and the characters narrate the larger story of Che's life. It's boring and pointless. Worse, Evans never probes into the real reasons for Che's actions. Oh, sure, he has Noriega talk endlessly about all the things Che saw in South America, but it never connects to a larger emotional motivation. It doesn't help that Evans clearly doesn't know how to direct actors, making them all play the most obvious and on the surface choices. There's no depth to any of the scenes.

The few sequences of action that do pop in are poorly shot and choreographed. There's no sense of space or tension. In fact, for a film about the world's most famous revolutionary, there's no sense of urgency at all. Everyone acts like they have all the time in the world, regardless of whether they're in a presidential palace, a Bolivian prison, or a Cuban jungle. There's no sense of time or place, as everything tends to blend together, and scenes are often dropped in without any rhyme or reason. I frequently found myself trying to figure out what I was watching, because almost every scene looks alike, and none of them convey any forward motion. It's all just snippets, which, when taken out of context, feel inconsequential.

Che Guevara's life would make a great and compelling story for film, and Steven Soderbergh is working on doing just that. Che is not one of those great films. Everything about it is misguided. Given that a few members of the cast have proven themselves to do good work with other filmmakers makes me point my critical finger at writer/director Josh Evans, who appears to have no clue about what makes for compelling drama, despite having one of the most dramatic and compelling subjects of the 20th century at his disposal. The film is like hearing an encyclopedia entry being read by someone for whom English is a third language. Technically, the facts are correct, but there's an emotional disconnect that makes it all meaningless.

The DVD:

The Image:
Image presents Che in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The film looks like it was shot roughly, with digital camcorders. I can't verify that, but if it was using film, then the DP really had no idea how to light. Even presuming a low budget source, the disc still looks pretty bad, with all kinds of compression artifacts and interlacing issues. The image looks like it was originally soft, but has been edge enhanced to hell. Not too good.

The Audio:
Despite offering a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Che is almost entirely a stereo movie. Of course, what else are you going to get when the film is almost all dialogue? The few action sequences that the picture does have does bring the surrounds to life, but they're not very aggressive.

The Supplements:
A theatrical trailer.

The Conclusion:
Che is a terrible film about a remarkable man. There's nothing in this picture that displays the charisma or the thoughtfulness of the man who helped Fidel Castro take over Cuba. It's tactless and boring, and not worth anyone's time. Skip It.

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