The Great Man school of biography is alive—if not particularly well—in The Liberator. A quick glimpse of unloving parents, a tragic lost love, reluctant heroism, sweeping battle scenes, and of course a charismatic international star: All are part of the once-over-lightly treatment.
The great man in question is Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), the George Washington of South America; the star is Édgar Ramírez, whose dashing performance as the Jackal in the three-part Carlos bagged him roles in Hollywood projects like Clash of the Titans and Deliver Us From Evil. Because the Venezuelan-born Bolívar’s goal was nothing less than the liberation of an entire continent from colonial rule, there’s a lot to cram into a two-hour movie. This means historical complexity is sidelined in favor of scenes in which Bolívar is nobly seated on the back of a charging horse, or clutched in the embrace of a beautiful woman while assassins lurk outside the hacienda. The images are handsome, but they don’t make much sense.