In 1966, the Cuban Revolution was long established and Fidel Castro (Demián Bichir) was immovable as the new leader of the island nation, but there were growing rumours that his second-in-command Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) was restless, and once it was apparent he had disappeared the population began to question why. This was when Castro held a conference where he read out Che's last letter to him to the people, which essentially said he was leaving to continue the revolution elsewhere, though precisely where that was remained a secret... for a while.
As with director Steven Soderbergh's first instalment in his Che films, this began with a map, but where Che Part One had shown a map of Cuba and its regions, here was a far larger area to cover: the whole of South America, which should give the audience some idea of how Guevara had bitten off more than he could chew this time. It was at this point in the production that its experimental nature emerged, as Part Two was basically a rerun of Part One, except with a far grimmer ending, as everything that had gone right the first time went horribly wrong the second. But what the director was reluctant to do was highlight why that was.
So as with the initial instalment, you were very much left to draw your own conclusions as to how you should regard the subject. A tragic hero? A terrorist who got his just desserts? You could see it either way, and this lack of plumping for one over the other made for a work which even when it could have been lambasting Che for his arrogance and mistakes which cost the lives of his comrades, never went that far as we could perceive why the injustice for others which hurt him so much would push him further into his idealism, to the point where it seemed nobody could sympathise with it but him. Being starving and destitute can do that to a person, and eventually the rebels Che gathered in Bolivia were just that.
Yes, it was Bolivia where he ended up, seeing this as the perfect place to spark his revolution in South America which would have every corrupt dictatorship in his sights fall away, leaving a new Communist dawn to take their place. The fact this didn't happen should alert you to how grindingly downbeat his time in the country was, and also that the people there simply wanted a quiet life rather than a call to arms: certainly the miners were striking for drastic improvements in pay and conditions, and many were executed for that very reason, but nobody wanted to stand up to the military rulers when most of them could be appreciating what little they had, that was, not being gunned down if they decided to rebel.
Soderbergh at least employed a measure of irony if you'd seen the opening movie, as various scenes in the second mirrored those which had been in the first, whether it be the introductions between Che and his new guerillas, his illness, or the near-climactic gun battle, which in this instance had a very different result. But the problems persisted: yet more scenes of raggle taggle troops fighting their way through the countryside to diminishing effect, a distant quality which was fatally unengaging, and a bunch of actors pretty much interchangeable depending on whose side they were on. Del Toro was even further centre stage this time, as if to point out that now Che was the prime mover in his dream of a better world he was doomed without the support of more committed individuals than the ones he had here, letting him down and sounding his eventual demise. But even more than Part One, this felt like an academic exercise rather than something to get politically inspired by, right or left wing. Music by Alberto Iglesias.
Versatile American writer, director and producer whose Sex Lies and Videotape made a big splash at Cannes (and its title has become a cliche). There followed an interesting variety of small films: Kafka, King of the Hill, noir remake The Underneath, Schizopolis (which co-starred his ex-wife) and Gray's Anatomy.
Then came Out of Sight, a smart thriller which was successful enough to propel Soderbergh into the big league with The Limey, Erin Brockovich, Oscar-winning Traffic and classy remake Ocean's 11. When Full Frontal and his Solaris remake flopped, he made a sequel to Ocean's 11 called Ocean's 12, material he returned to with Ocean's 13. Che Guevara biopics, virus thriller Contagion and beat 'em up Haywire were next, with the director claiming he would retire after medication thriller Side Effects and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra. He returned after a period of even greater activity with heist flick Logan Lucky and his first horror, Unsane.