The Corner

Che Watch

I have no objection to a movie about the life of Che Guevara. At least in theory. Yet it’s probably impossible for Hollywood to make an honest film about this awful man — case in point being the new one from director Steven Soderbergh and starring Benicio Del Toro. Even the NYT sees the problem clearly, based on a screening at Cannes:

There is a lot, however, that the audience will not learn from this big movie, which has some big problems as well as major virtues. In between the two periods covered in “Che,” Guevara was an important player in the Castro government, but his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned. This, along with Benicio Del Toro’s soulful and charismatic performance, allows Mr. Soderbergh to preserve the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed. By now, though, this image seems at best naïve and incomplete, at worst sentimental and dishonest.

The best news is that the movie is apparently four and a half hours long and in Spanish, which doesn’t sound like a recipe for box-office magic. But think about it: The film is twice as long as a movie that’s already bordering on too long, and it just skips over the part of Che’s life (when he was serving in Castro’s government) that contains some of the most difficult episodes for his hagiographers to explain away. What’s next? A miniseries on Osama bin Laden that passes over 9/11?

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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