Steven Soderbergh’s two-part epic on the charismatic communist revolutionary is decent, respectful and so narrowly focused on the logistics of fighting a jungle-based populist uprising that he demurs from giving dramatic shape to 4-1/2 hours of material. Part One is more confidently made while the downward spiral of events in Part Two give it the inevitable pull of history. But without a program or beforehand knowledge, non-believers will end up lost in Bolivia. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara wrote that those who make revolution either win or die. Artistically, that’s what Soderbergh was shooting at. So, the utter indifference that greeted CHE may have been more painful than out & out fiasco. A bit of extra irony for a film about an iconoclastic icon made with a larger budget than Castro & Che had to knock off Battista’s Cuba.
The 3-disc Criterion edition comes with a striking period documentary made in Bolivia, filmed just days after Che’s death, that delivers more in half an hour than the feature it supports.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: The young Che is beautifully caught, if thru rose-colored glasses, in THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES/'04.