Benicio Del Toro has the perfomance of his career in Director Steven Soderbergh's two-film epic of revolutionary guerilla, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. There are two, two and a half hour films, with a twenty minute intermission between them. The first is Che (Part 1): The Argentine, a brilliant war film about the actual military operation to overtake Cuba in 1956. The second film is Che (Part 2): Guerrilla, which portrays Che's exploits in Bolivia in 1967 until his death. Both films are solid, top-notch filmmaking from Soderbergh, but the first piece, "The Argentine", is clearly superior and by itself is easily one of the best films of 2008.

Del Toro and Soderbergh approach the character of Che pragmatically. He is a revolutionary with Marxist ideology and uses these themes continually through his guerilla campaigns. We see the nuts and bolts of fighting a war, including the strategy used to topple 'capitalist' regimes. Many people will no doubt criticize these films for romanticing Che and not branding him as an executioner or murderer. This is a philosophical judgement that can be made, but the films should be viewed as works of art. And in that response are extraordinary accomplishments.

I had the chance to interview Del Toro and Demian Bichir, who plays Fidel Castro, in New York a few weeks ago. Both men were proud of their work and considered "Che" the acting opportunity of a lifetime. They will both get Oscar nominations, but I would be surprised if either won due to the politics of the film.

Che (Part 1) and Che (Part 2) open December 12th in NY & LA for one week then expands January 9th.

Julian Roman