I was so impressed by the profound assurance, philosophical authority and thematic clarity in Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor (20th Century Fox, 10.25), which I saw last night, that I pleaded with Fox publicists to let me say a few things despite the Thursday afternoon review embargo. They gave me permission to do so. I was also very taken by the visually seductive stylings (the dp is Dariusz Wolski with editing by Pietro Scalia) and what I would call a bold but almost reckless indifference to conventional audience expectations for a film of this type.
I recognize that my admiration for The Counselor may be a minority view, but I know a class act when I see and hear one. I love that The Counselor sticks to its thematic guns (including a very tough philosophical view of greed and frailty) and that it doesn’t back off an inch from what McCarthy and Scott are surely aware will be regarded by mainstreamers as an unpopular approach to narrative development and character fate.
The basic thematic lesson is that there are so many serpents slithering around the Mexican drug business that investing yourself in this realm to any degree is tantamount to suicide. Not exactly fresh information, perhaps, but it’s the singer, not the song. If you’ve seen No Country For Old Men, you know where Cormac McCarthy (who wrote the screenplay for The Counselor without pausing to publish a narrative book version first) is coming from as a storyteller and social forecaster and ethicist.
The Counselor is an ice-cold morality tale about a very brutal realm, and particularly about a cunning, ruthless and emotion-less character whose identity I can’t reveal but who is played very impressively by…can’t reveal that either. But I’m not talking about Michael Fassbender. Although he handles himself and his role in an appealing, engaging fashion, or as engagingly as the narrative allows.