Talking Movies: The Counselor


The Counselor is a 2013 film written by Cormac McCarthy and directed by Ridley Scott. It was rejected by the public, and panned by the critics. However, there also developed a rather devoted fractious group. This group would have left it at ‘not so bad’ had others been of the same view, but since they were the only ones holding that view, they had no choice but to elevate their opinion of the film from ‘not so bad’ to ‘one of the year’s best’.

Third time that Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt have appeared together. The first two times were well-received and the odds caught up with them a little bit this time. C0-starring in the film are Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Javier Bardem. There are also a few recognizable faces in more limited roles like those of Bruno Ganz, Edgar Ramirez, Natalie Dormer.

Every time a Ridley Scott film is badly received, a chorus usually follows. “The extended version/Director’s Cut ties it all up, the Studio’s cut ruined it.” I said okay, fine; I will buy your argument. And I sat down to watch the extended cut. 137 mins vs 117 mins.

The aim of this post isn’t to make you watch the film. I just wanted you to know that there exists such a movie where such and such things happen. Of course, I am going to have to reveal the plot in order to do that. So <SPOILER ALERT> <Do not proceed any further if you are the type to complain about spoilers>

Cormac McCarthy writes books. He then allows others to adapt them into a screenplay (No Country For Old Men, The Road). This is his first original screenplay. So don’t be shocked to see a Mexican use language that a normal well-educated American wouldn’t. There are also scenes whose purpose can only be divined as to present a strand of philosophy. I can buy a customer being patient with a philosophy spouting diamond merchant but I can’t buy a grieving husband providing a patient ear to the philosophy of a sadistic villain. In a way, McCarthy is the perfect writer for the compatibly religious-minded Ridley Scott.

Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle requiring that every element in a narrative be necessary and irreplaceable, and that everything else be removed. In other words, one must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off.” This principle is assiduously followed in the film.

The problem is Brad Pitt LITERALLY loses his head to Cameron Diaz and Fassbender gets delivered a snuff dvd which contains a video of Penelope Cruz being beheaded, in order to stick to the principle. That’s two A-stars being beheaded in a movie where beheading carries as much shock-value as in Se7en. Beheadings aren’t an element of farce here as they are in say, Mars Attacks or in slasher movies.

So there you have it- this is the movie to see if you want to see Brad Pitt’s head severed from Brad Pitt’s body. The cruelest thing about that is it is arranged by Cameron Diaz! How awful.

If you ignore all that, the movie has an interesting score by Daniel Pemberton which gels very well with the tenor of the movie.

Cameron Diaz, incidentally, is purposefully styled to resemble a Cheetah in the image above.


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