Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Counselor Review

The average movie goer probably has no idea who Cormac McCarthy is. That's a shame, since he's one of my favorite authors. He's written some amazing books like The Road, Child of God, and my personal favorite, No Country For Old Men. On that note, No Country For Old Men was adapted into a movie in 2007 and swept the Academy Awards. including Best Picture, Best Actor in a Supporting Role (for Javier Bardem), Best Direction, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The Counselor, the latest Cormac McCarthy written movie, stars Javier Bardem again, has Ridley Scott directing instead of the Coen Brothers, and an original screenplay. Together, they make a movie that's just as captivating as NCFOM, but a lot weirder.

The movie doesn't have any background information to speak of. We're thrust into the life of the eponymous Counselor, who's leading a perfect life with his new wife Laura. Everything's perfect, he's planning on making a huge amount of money by getting into the narcotics business, but he has no worries about it whatsoever. If there's one thing that The Counselor does the same as No Country For Old Men, it's having a very slow pace. However, the movie benefits from that immensely. We slowly see a progression from the happy and peaceful life that the Counselor leads, to the disaster and chaos it eventually becomes.

Javier Bardem in a butterfly jacket. That is all.
And by god does his life fall apart. I won't spoil it, but if you've seen NCFOM and read any book by McCarthy, you know exactly how it's going to end; miserably. While NCFOM's characters were all very subdued, the characters in The Counselor are larger than life and extravagant. Everyone lives in excess and are greedy, terrible people that all deserve what's coming to them, even though we eventually grow to like them. Yes they're greedy and deal with shady cartels, but by god are they so likable.

Cameron Diaz deserves a special nod for her part as the dangerous Malkina, the girlfriend of Javier Bardem's Reiner. I was actually expecting Javier Bardem to steal the show and give a performance on the same level as his legendary Anton Chigurh from NCFOM, but Malkina is the true evil in the movie. She's a sociopath in the purest definition that has no remorse for her actions, though admittingly not as memorable or as terrifying as Chigurh was. She'll kill, betray, and abuse anyone to maintain her hedonistic lifestyle. You kinda know she's a bit off from the beginning, but it's not until she and Bardem are alone on a golf course that you realize just how crazy she is. Plus she has two pet cheetahs and has cheetah tattoos. I'm cool with that.

However, understanding the move is probably the hardest thing to do. The movie is thick in the most literal sense of the term. The dialogue is like reading a book; very abstract and laced with metaphors. It's written in a way that feels like you're watching a book on tape. This is a movie that requires multiple viewings to fully understand what's even happening. I sat through the entire thing, and I still have no idea what some scenes mean. There are a good amount of scenes that exist, but don't directly connect to the plot. There's a scene between two cartel members that serves no purpose to the main plot besides elaborate on a general theme in the movie. It's a very good scene, but it's meaning isn't readily apparent.

"I'm a cheetah, and I'm a pimp. Cheetah pimp bitches"
Unfortunately, because it requires multiple viewings to understand the symbolism, it comes across like a book, but without the benefits of a book. If the viewer was reading a McCarthy novel, they can flip back a few pages and read the dialogue and understand the reason behind certain word choices. Here, because the movie keeps on going, some strings of rich dialogue are lost when the viewer focuses on what they're even talking about. Yes, you can have a scene of the film dedicated to understanding the reason behind the cheetah symbolism, but if you don't understand it or even blink for a little bit, then the greater meaning would be lost. So then you're left wondering for the rest of the movie what the deal with the cheetahs was.

And yet, I can't resist not watching this movie. The scenes that are out of place, and by god are they out of place, work. If they weren't included then the movie would be a bit easier to follow, but it would also lose depth. It's so rare to have a movie that has legitimate depth to it, especially in this day and age where the biggest movies flat out tell you the emotion you should be feeling without having the audience think about it. This movie expects you to pay attention and is much more cerebral than NCFOM was. MCFOM was straightforward enough and didn't rely on dialogue to tell its story. The story came from the atmosphere and mood and how the characters worked under each situation. In this movie, the story uses its large amount of dialogue to discuss the nature of greed, crime, and how far a person would go to keep the life they have. I'm not saying that The Counselor has a better story than NCFOM, but it makes you think a lot more.

Right now, I pretty much know exactly how the run of this movie is going to go. This is pretty much going to be this year's Cloud Atlas. This is a beautifully shot movie that requires multiple viewings to understand, but is completely worth it. It may divide critics because of it's difficult dialogue and not so easy to follow plot, but those that like this film really like this film. It'll make a profit, but not too much of a profit, and most likely not be recognized for the Academy Awards, which is a shame given how enjoyable this movie is. I thought this was a breath of fresh air and while not a must see, still should be seen by anyone that loves movies. That's why The Counselor gets 4 terrible people out of 5. 

Only one of these five people is actually good. Take a guess which one!
Now with that all said and done, time to go not be a terrible person!

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