For years, Ernesto "Che" Guevara has been more of a symbol than a man—but a symbol of what, exactly, is hard to say. The Latin American revolutionary, who helped bring Fidel Castro to power in Cuba in 1959 and died at the hands of the Bolivian army in 1967, is still revered for his Marxist politics in some quarters, but for many people, he is little more than the model for that famous image which can now be seen on everything from T-shirts to pop bottles: Framed by a beard and a beret, Che's face seems to stare, romantically but determinedly, into a future where things have been made better. Drained of any specific content, that image has come to represent a generic itch for change, and it has been co-opted by corporations and churches alike to show how hip and macho they can be.

The Motorcycle Diaries aims to subvert all this by showing us the man behind the myth, but in its own way, it too downplays the particulars of the man and his politics. This is partly because the film limits its focus to a life-changing road trip that Ernesto (Gael Garcia Bernal, who previously played Che in the TV mini-series Fidel) and his buddy, Alberto Granada (Rodrigo de la Serna), took across South America in 1952, when they were still university students whose political identities had not yet been fully formed. This is also because director Walter Salles—who scored a crossover hit a few years ago with Central Station, a redemptive road movie about an old woman and an orphaned boy who go deep into the heart of Brazil—tends to emphasize the humanity of the characters through smaller, more intimate moments, while keeping overtly political statements to a minimum.

As a result, The Motorcycle Diaries is a beautiful and even entertaining ...

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The Motorcycle Diaries
Our Rating
3½ Stars - Good
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Mpaa Rating
R (for language)
Directed By
Walter Salles
Run Time
2 hours 6 minutes
Cast
Gael García Bernal, Rodrigo De la Serna, Mía Maestro, Mercedes Morán
Theatre Release
October 15, 2004 by Focus Features
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