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Diarios de motocicleta (2004)

The Motorcycle Diaries

Let the world change you... and you can change the world

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 128 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Che Guevara is known by many people as many things: revolutionary, guerrilla, t-shirt salesman. ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’, though, goes all-out to humanize the legend like never before, charting a period in Guevara’s life pre-dating the beard and silly hat for which we’ve all come to know and love him.

In 1952, when Guevara (played here by Gael Garcia Bernal) was a 23-year-old student doctor in Argentina, he and pie-loving pal Alberto Granado (Rodrigo De la Serna) set out to travel the length of South America perched on one tiny run-down motorcycle. They planned it as a journey of self-discovery, a chance to see the people and places making up their continent, and finished the whole thing off by putting their medical skills to the test with a visit to a leper colony. Actually, it all sounds like pretty good fun (although if I was doing it I’d maybe give the bit with the lepers a miss).

Here, in little over a couple of hours, Brazilian director Walter Salles brings us along on their epic journey. It’s a story based on the books Guevara and Granado wrote afterwards (you’d think they could have met up and written a book together, instead of writing two books about the same thing!), so we can assume it’s a reasonably accurate, if massively truncated, account of what went on.

To be honest, the whole thing’s a little bit disjointed in how it moves from one scene to the next. Salles seems rushed in places, and perhaps could have done with taking his time a bit more and making the end product a little longer. However, two predominant aspects still shine through. The first is the touching friendship between the two men, shown perfectly by a pair of actors who work incredibly well together and show a lot of chemistry. The second is the jaw-dropping scenery, particularly as our intrepid buddies reach the one-time home of the Incas and take in the wondrous – if slightly run-down – temples.

Salles is less than subtle in his attempt to deliver his message, particularly towards the end as we’re spoon-fed a Guevara speech about a united America and the whole thing becomes increasingly cloying and preachy. But it looks fantastic, the performances are spot on, and there’s some really nice witty dialogue to prevent it from becoming too heavy. There’s a lot to love about this movie.

It's Got: A really bad joke about “Incas” and “Inca-pables”. No, hold on a sec… I just got it! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! “Incas and INCA-pables”! Genius.

It Needs: A decent motorcycle!! It’s not long into the film before you realise why.


See it, do it, buy the t-shirt.