Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Featuretter; trailer; B-roll footage;
THE iconic face of Che Guevara has adorned countless T-shirts
and posters down the years, but very little is probably known
about the early years of the revolutionary leader.
The Motorcycle Diaries, based on the journals of both himself
and friend, Alberto Granado, during a road trip to discover the
real Latin America, goes some way to accomplishing that, serving
as both an absorbing and frequently funny character study, as
well as a valuable historical document.
The film picks up in 1952, as two young Argentines, Ernesto and
Alberto, set out on a road trip to unveil the rich and complex
human and social topography of the Latin American continent, on
a rickety 1939 Norton 500 motorcycle, christened ‘The Mighty
For the 23-year-old Ernesto, a medical student specialising in
leprology, the trip represents an opportunity to gain some valuable
life experience, as well as furthering his studies (they plan
to end up at a leper colony), while for the more flamboyant Alberto,
a 29-year-old biochemist, it offers the chance to get laid in
each country and have some serious fun.
The road trip that results, as one would expect, is ripe with
adventure, from motorcycle crashes, to drunken endeavours, to
amorous encounters with beautiful women, right through to the
stunning scenery that their journey encompasses.
Yet, along the way, the two men discover a lot about themselves,
and for Ernesto, in particular, the seeds of his political motivations
are sown in the many injustices and stories of suffering he encounters
Given what Ernesto, or Che, went
on to achieve in his political years, viewers may be forgiven
for thinking that a film about his early life could be a fairly
heavy-going, even ponderous, affair that could make for over-earnest
Not so, for The Motorcycle Diaries, directed by Walter Salles,
is a life-affirming, enjoyable and hugely engrossing affair that
functions on so many different levels, without ever feeling the
need to become heavy-handed or preachy.
As a road movie, it provides some breathtaking cinematography;
as a character study, it expertly taps into the young ideology
of its daring protagonists, and as an affecting exploration of
the origins of one of history’s most romanticised revolutionaries,
it raises some thought-provoking background material.
It is also extremely well-acted by the rapidly-emerging Gael
Garcia Bernal (Bad Education/Y Tu Mama Tambien) and Rodrigo de
la Serna, whose friendship is honest, believable and, above all,
Audiences will no doubt laugh at the duo’s misfortune,
and gasp at some of the scenery (particularly when they reach
the heights of Machu Picchu), while also connecting with the characters
on an all-important emotional level.
Bernal, once again, demonstrates what a terrific talent he has
become, expertly guiding the viewers’ through his social
and political awakening, without ever forgetting to keep his character
fun. He captures the romanticism surrounding the Che persona with
effortless aplomb, and is ably supported by de la Serna, who provides
plenty of comic relief and a credible sounding board for some
of Che’s early idea-forming.
It is the chemistry between the two which helps to transform
The Motorcycle Diaries into one of the finest and most rewarding
movies of the year. Their journey makes for essential viewing.