Written by Lily Davis.
This film brags an array of talented and prominent names. However, as the credits begin to roll, it’s questionable whether there is significant else to brag about. Here Ridley Scott, a director with many enduring films under his belt, works with a script crafted by acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy made a dazzling entrance into the cinematic sphere with All The Pretty Horses (2000) and the highly acclaimed No Country For Old Men (2007). Having enjoyed enormous recognition and success for his work in print, it was a smooth transition onto the screen. Both were adapted from his novels, however The Counselor is McCarthy’s first original screenplay. This fact doesn’t exactly show, but there is something different about this one. It doesn’t quite reach the same heights.
Michael Fassbender plays the counselor, a lawyer sucked by greed into an illicit drug deal with nightclub owner Reiner (Javier Bardem). As the deal goes wrong and a shipment of cocaine goes astray, the counselor cops the blame and things take a turn for the worse. We feel increasingly unsettled as each minute ticks away. It takes a while to get there but when tension builds at the end of the film, it delivers the intensity we have long been anticipating. Occasionally the plot lacks clarity, lost in long exchanges of dialogue, but this doesn’t detract too much from the experience.
The story itself may be one we’ve heard before, yet there is something unique about the way this one is told. The Counselor is surprising as it delves into lengthy, philosophical dialogue. Almost every character has something profound to offer. The film taps into meaningful ideas, despite the overriding sense of meaninglessness. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the dialogue is superb in the way it flows between characters. This is a film that rewards the viewer that thinks everything through just that little bit more. There may be debate over whether such big talk is suitable here, but at the end of the day this is clearly the work of a true writer.
Ridley Scott does an admirable job of bringing this story to life. He has a lot to work with, but the execution is still fantastic. The film looks wonderful, if at times the costuming can be a little garish. This film has solid performances, which you would hope for with such a big name cast. There are some distinctive and well-written characters at the centre of this story. However, the stand out is without a doubt Javier Bardem. He handles his character with the ease and instincts of a fine actor. Penelope Cruz and Brad Pitt also work well within their roles, but Cameron Diaz is only carried by the strength of her character.
Overall, The Counselor is overwhelmingly bleak. While sadism and sexism are elements of the world on-screen, you can’t help but feel that this may be, at times, quite unnecessary. It doesn’t always sit quite right. The message in this film is grim. Not only are there some truly gruesome moments and sinister characters, but we are also left feeling desolate at its end. While The Counselor is both interesting and well-made, as with much of McCarthy’s work, we are left with a sense of futility and hopelessness.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10