Che: Part One, Steven Soderbergh, 126 mins, 15

Not so much a biopic as 'I'm a rebel ... get me out of here'

Steven Soderbergh's four-hour Che Guevara biopic is being released in two halves in Britain, with the second segment due in February.

But anyone who goes to see Che: Part One without any prior warning might guess that it's not the first of two instalments, but the fourth of eight. It's like watching The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, only more so. You feel as if you've missed the beginning of the story, and you know you're not going to find out what happens at the end.

Soderbergh and his screenwriter, Peter Buchman, make a point of rejecting the conventional Hollywood biopic structure, which is probably for the best. There's no need to see Ernesto Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) as a schoolboy, coughing and spluttering on his first cigar. On the other hand, there's no need for Soderbergh and Buchman to go to the opposite extreme. Much as The Passion Of The Christ neglected to mention that Jesus might have done anything more miraculous than inventing the dining table, Che: Part One tells us almost nothing about where Guevara came from, or how he was radicalised, or whether he had any military training. It's an hour and a half before we hear that he has a wife and daughter in Mexico.

Most of the film is set during one campaign in 1957 and 1958. The Cuban Revolution is gathering steam, and Guevara is hiking with his band of merry men through the mountains, recruiting peasants and dodging Batista's forces. In scenes that are all too reminiscent of I'm A Celebrity..., the rag-tag rebels sit around camp fires, giving each other nicknames, and occasionally carrying out the equivalent of a Bushtucker Trial: executing traitors and raiding enemy bases.

It's always watchable, and it often looks stunning. Soderbergh – who doubles as the director of photography – uses a state-of-the-art digital camera to pick out every leaf and vine in the jungle with a clarity worthy of a David Attenborough series. But Guevara himself is never seen so clearly. Soderbergh keeps his distance at all times, resisting close-ups, intimate conversations, or anything that might have revealed more about the man beneath the beret. The sole discernible character development is the growth of his hair, from a short back and sides in an early scene to the leonine look he wears on a million students' posters.

As for historical context, the meagre portions we get are spooned out by some flash-forwards to 1964, when Guevara addresses the United Nations in New York. Shot in a grainy black-and-white, handheld style, these sequences seem to be modelled on D A Pennebaker's Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back with Guevara as the beatnik rock star freaking out the squares as he's shuttled from party to interview to public appearance.

As a pastiche of 1960s cinematography, these interludes are perfect, but they leave you with the same misgiving as most of Soderbergh's work – that he's far more interested in film techniques than he is in what he's filming.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk