Édgar Ramírez, seen earlier this year as a priest fighting demons in Deliver Us From Evil, reaches epic heights as Simón Bolívar in The Liberator. Chronicling the evolution of the South American icon was certainly a daunting task for filmmaker Alberto Arvelo, and though the director mounts various Bolívar campaigns to visually arresting affect, much of The Liberator’s success rests with Ramírez’s inspired performance.
We are introduced to Bolívar as a Venezuelan who’s born into privilege, and his youthful confidence is tempered by his insightful beliefs on equality and social justice, lessons imparted by his tutor Simon Rodriguez (Francisco Denis). After his marriage (a luminous Maria Valverde plays his wife) ends in tragedy, Bolívar is initially disillusioned and directionless, until he leads a campaign to liberate northern South America.
Simon Bolívar is a near mythic figure, and having been known as fighting over 100 battles against the Spanish Empire and riding over 70,000 miles on horseback, it’s easy to see why Arvelo infuses The Liberator with grand scale storytelling (Gustavo Dudamel’s sweeping and resonant score adds to the mix).
But amidst the battles and Bolívar’s speeches, the film’s biggest takeaway is Ramírez, who effectively portrays the inner struggles that reside within this iconic figure. Ramírez knows that before one portrays a legend, he must play the actual man (Bolívar died of tuberculosis at 47).
Filmed in Spain and Venezuela, The Liberator is also pleasing to the eye, as Arvelo and crew get the most out of the project’s reported $50 million budget. Now playing in limited release, The Liberator (119 minutes, R) is a narrative that should be seen on the big screen, especially if you love historical epics.
**In the audio clip below, Ramírez explains how Simón Bolívar’s personal loss inspired his lifelong quest for freedom and liberty: