Reviews

Commandante

3

Imagine you could ask JFK if he spotted a shifty-looking fella on the grassy knoll before he accessorised Jackie's suit with his brain. Or if you could share a hot toddy with Churchill while discussing those pesky Germans. Or you were granted three uncensored days with iconic Cuban figurehead Fidel Castro. What would you ask him?

Probably not the questions arch conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone puts to the aging leader in his latest film, which documents his own conversations with Castro while the odd couple stroll around government offices, art galleries and Havana streets. It's a mutual appreciation society; Stone has even grown an ill-conceived moustache for his visit. Castro slings his arm round Stone's shoulders as he cleverly steps around issues such as his regime's alleged torturing of dissidents and poor economy. Stone, meanwhile, throws in some curious philosophical posers and predictably steers chat onto Vietnam and JFK's assassination - which smacks of missed opportunity.

That's not to say there's not plenty of fascinating material here. For decades, Castro has been an enigmatic figure, a man variously held up as a bastion of evil Communism, a po-faced dictator or a Socialist saviour. Comandante allows his considerable charm and humour to come through as he reveals his love of Sophia Loren, jokes about taking Viagra and disses the US policy of going to war on the basis of `homeland security'.

Persuasive, passionate and incredibly intelligent, the iconic leader cuts an impressive figure, and his tour of Havana makes for a bright, evocative picture-postcard from Cuba. It's just a shame Stone couldn't have made it more focused.

Verdict:

Gaining this kind of intimate access to Castro is an achievement in itself, and Oliver Stone's doc is enthralling in places. But he could have done with some bolder questions.

Film Details

  • 15
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: October 10th 2003

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