Review in a Hurry: You know that guy in the beret on all those T-shirts? Yeah, that's communist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, and in this movie you get to see him (or rather, Benicio Del Toro) running around in the woods with guns for four and a half hours. Yes, that's right five hours if you count intermission.
The Bigger Picture: Though he died in 1967, the Argentine-doctor-turned-Cuban-revolutionary Guevara is still the subject of heated debates in political circles. Should he be considered a hero for leading a populist uprising against dictator Bautista? Or rather, is he a villain for imprisoning and executing dissidents once he and Fidel Castro took the reins of power?
Steven Soderbergh's movie takes no stand except by omission. Rather infuriatingly, he completely skips over the most controversial era in Guevara's life—when he was in power. Instead, the first half of the film covers the initial revolution in Cuba, while the second half focuses on his final campaign: an attempt to overthrow the government in Bolivia. While Soderbergh clearly made the movie he wanted to make, rather than the one we might have liked to see, shouldn't there have been time in all these hours to cover the controversial aspects just a little bit more? As is, you'll understand why some people might find Che an inspiring symbol to put on a T-shirt, but you won't really get why that makes other people so angry.
Regardless, Del Toro is the perfect actor to play Che, exuding both charisma and determination. Demián Bichir's Castro is even more of a dead ringer, if something of a bit player. As for the rest of the characters, we don't really get to know most of them. And since Soderbergh's going for a more naturalistic approach, maybe that's the point, but it makes for a movie with less-obvious appeal, and when its this long, that's gonna require a dedicated film lover. Do not buy the large Coke.
The cinematography, though, is stunning—worth catching on the big screen. Using the new Red camera, Soderbergh (using his Peter Andrews alias) captures even the tiniest of distant details. So even if the narrative occasionally becomes boring, marvel at how every shrub on the farthest distant mountain is still in perfect focus.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Unless you catch Che in its first week in New York and L.A., its going to be released as two separate movies, and the first one by itself will be a whole lot easier to sit through, since it occasionally changes settings to Che's visit with the U.N. in New York.