As the end-of-the-year blockbusters near release, the smaller films are beginning to be ignored. “The Counselor” is one such film that deserves more attention than it has been given.
The film sports a dream team of cast and crew that elevate it above the simple plot. Penned by author Cormac McCarthy (“No Country for Old Men”) and directed by Ridley Scott (“Black Hawk Down”, “Gladiator”), the planets had seemingly aligned. Add an all-star ensemble consisting of Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class”), Javier Bardem (“Skyfall”), Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt and Penélope Cruz, and it has even greater potential.
The premise is simple: three men try to finance a drug smuggling operation with the cartel and end up running for their lives. Like “Gravity,” released earlier this month, “The Counselor” relies on the characters to keep it compelling. It can be hard to follow at times because it does not flesh out every detail, but by the end of the movie the audience has the full picture because it understands the characters themselves.
The film is very dialogue heavy, but listening to the stories they tell is never boring. This film has more than a few quotable lines, and some scenes can make you question how you view the world. The script is the star, and the actors support it in every way. The only performance that needed improvement was Diaz. She portrays her character very well, but her pronunciation would have been at home in live theatre, not in a movie.
The tone was one of constant foreboding and dread, and it suited the film well. This is real life, and the movie never lets the audience forget that. The settings and environments were characters unto themselves and supported every action. Director Scott has always had a knack for capturing the hopelessness of areas like Juarez, Mexico, and other seedy areas.
The music was standard fare, with only one moment standing out from the others.
“The Counselor” lives up to its “R” rating with ease. It has drawn some controversy over the violence and sex in the film. It is not so much the amount of those things, but how it is presented.
The cartels are brutal, and the violence packs a punch. The film does not contain much blood or fighting, but the rawness and impersonal way it is carried out has a great impact. A conversation about a new decapitation device had more of an effect than watching a shootout. Actually seeing it was another matter altogether.
The sexual content is also not present for long, but it is focused on to a point where some people may become uncomfortable. Again, it was a story told, however, it is described in great detail and visually implied.
“The Counselor” is a taut crime-thriller that is hyper-focused on the story it is telling and never straying. If you liked “No Country for Old Men,” this is a must-see. It receives a nine out of 10.