The Counselor is daaaaaaarrrrrrrk. I mean like really really dark but still not as dark as Cormac Mcarthy’s other intensely dark The Road was. This is of course not to detour you but go in knowing that things don’t work out but when do they ever in a Cormac McCarthy book? I have a feeling that this may be a bit much for most audiences and will most likely upset those looking for a good time at the movies. That said The Counselor is a pretty good movie, almost great even. It crawls out of the gate with Michael Fassbender going down on Penelope Cruz and then slowly gains momentum as the plot ambiguously unfolds before your eyes. This is at once its most intriguing quality and maybe the thing that will keep this from being heralded as a great film among the casual movie goer. (whispers) There are bigger things going on here than a drug deal gone bad. (wink)
The Counselor is and will always be a movie about the life we make for ourselves. A movie about all the decisions we make and what they will amount to when added together. Most likely equaling the sum of our total destruction or our rise to infamy or the sad maintenance of our impending mediocrity. This is a movie, so of course it deals with extremes and the mediocrity thing never happens. So now we have arrived at The Counselor. In all its filthy existential glory, smiling through bloody teeth and moral decay. We march onward.
First of all The Counselor boasts an absolutely incredible cast. A-listers oozing from every orifice. Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt to name a few. I really think that Ridley Scott had to find actors with some serious chops because they were going to be faced with a fiercely complex script that revels in its cadence and vocabulary. At times you really felt like the language being worked on screen was something out of a stage play written by David Mamet intended to be performed by Broadway’s best but its not its a stage play written by Cormac McCarthy and then Ridley Scott happened to have cameras around so he decided to film it. The dialogue and the writing in general are absolutely genius but for some reason at times the encounters felt a little forced to me. Like they were making these incredibly deep points wrapped in existentialism and the actors at times (Brad Pitt specifically) seemed totally lost. This could have been because they had no idea what they were actually saying. When these moments hit on all cylinders though it was, in a word, magical. A specific scene involves Michael Fassbender and Ruben Blades with Blades explaining some serious life lessons to him and in so many words tells Fassbender that there is no hope and all is lost. Time to move on. Its brutal and brilliantly executed.
There is nothing really special about this film outside of its script. This is Cormac McCarthy’s first attempt at a screenplay and while he doesn’t knock it out of the park, he does make a case for producing something absolutely genius if he were to try his hand at this again. He is close to 80 years old so it may be a little late in his career to expect much more out of him but it could happen! One can hope anyway.
So, should one see The Counselor? The answer is easy, yes. But, know that you are in for much more than a hand holding drug deal gone bad kind of movie. You are in for something much bigger. Not bigger in the ‘we are going to save the world’ kind of way but bigger in matters of the soul. Bigger in that ‘life long search for the meaning of it all’ kind of way. This topic is handled in a very personal way. In a way that only Cormac McCarthy could deliver. If you saw No Country For Old Men and knew that the story was about Tommy Lee Jones’ character and not everyone else then you know what I’m talking about. Prepare for something a little bigger than you’re promised in the trailers. Through its flaws The Counselor gets lift off and even soars at moments but never achieves the greatness it could have.
I give it 3.50 out of 5
By: Brandon Bray