Thursday, October 24, 2013
The Counselor is written by Cormac McCarthy, he of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Road and Best Picture winning No Country For Old Men. It is directed by Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator and Alien. Suffice to say expectations for this film are quite high, and I guess the question is are you prepared for what the film has to offer? This film doesn't follow the traditional narrative structure or even really a 3 act structure; it just kind of goes. Personally I have no issue with this, the story is fine, the dialogue is transcendent as one might expect from the greatest living author; and if you can get behind randomly philosophical scenes and characters you can certainly get behind this movie.
The film also doesn't have a dominant character, we have a titular protagonist played quite well by Fassbender but he's only in say 30-35% of the movie. This is not uncommon for Mr. Cormac, given that Llewelyn Moss is only in 40-45% of No Country For Old Men. However the "villain" isn't really clear cut, most of the scenes occur with no direct narrative explanation. The film does not have exposition pretty much, it has foreshadowing to be sure but it is somewhat misleading foreshadowing. So if you're wondering why it has a 32% on Rotten Tomatoes, that's why.
This is a great movie, mainly because of the dialogue; but there's also some excellent art direction and cinematography; the whole film is well acted. But it isn't traditional in any way, there is no redemptive nature to the plot, it doesn't follow a standard tragic arc. If it was a book it would likely be rejected for 50-100 years and then widely read and accepted, such is the nature of the proceedings. This could still happen given the ridiculously high caliber of the writer and the ridiculously low caliber of modern literature; I'll certainly watch it several more times just to listen to the dialogue again.
I'd be careful if you love this movie and want to call everyone else stupid, let's say they're just used to the standards of cinematic process, and if something does it differently they are unwilling to accept it until the overwhelming majority reaches consensus. Note I'm not saying this film is for "Hipsters" or people that like Fight Club or whatever, actually Fight Club is downright standard compared to this film in terms of design. It is a difficult movie to reconcile or rather there is no specific reconciliation. One of the characters has a conversation via phone with Fassbender and he basically explains that you should prepare yourself for every eventuality mentally, and that this is a difficult thing to do. In much the same way Hollywood and Cinema should prepare themselves for the reality that various things up to and including the 3 act structure aren't necessarily the only or "best" way to tell a story.
Edit: I should note that the film features very little on screen violence against women despite tremendous opportunity to do so and thorough implications of such activities. This is very uncommon in modern films/media as there is always some sort of dehumanization or just straight up violence toward women; it is good to see a film that isn't opaquely misogynistic.