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The Counselor (2013)
Scott and McCarthy -- Approaching Perfection
SPOILER ALERT -- ! In this review, I reveal important plot details regarding "The Counselor," "Blood Meridian," and "No Country For Old Men."
A lot of people are trashing Ridley Scott's new film, "The Counselor"...but honestly, I think they're misunderstanding the film's characters, monologues, and themes -- chiefly because they're not familiar with Cormac McCarthy's style, outlook, or world view. I think they're expecting something mostly Scott...instead of something wholly McCarthy -- and I say that because I felt that "The Counselor" was mostly the product of McCarthy's (first) screenplay rather than Scott's direction.
My good friend's criticism was simple enough: "I saw everything coming! This movie was way too predictable!" But again, because he's so unfamiliar with McCarthy's "universe," he didn't enjoy the film.
For the record...I have read EVERY (published) McCarthy novel and I have seen MOST of Scott's films (I never saw "A Good Year" or "Legend" or a few others not worth mentioning)...so I feel that I'm in a very good position to offer my opinion concerning "The Counselor" -- perhaps the best film I saw in 2013.
To my friend who said that "The Counselor" was too predictable...I will agree; upon second viewing, this film is FILLED with not-so-subtle hints that death and misery will befall its main character, the Counselor. Like other McCarthy works, certain characters WARN other characters of impending (and highly probable) death...but the warnings always go unheeded...and the characters (in this case, the main character's love interest) suffer GREATLY.
In "Blood Meridian" (Cormac's greatest work of the '80s) an old Mennonite warns the soldiers (and the main character) not to go on their journey. The men are slaughtered later. Later in the story, a juggler tells fortunes using tarot cards...and later, the men are killed in various ways.
Cameron Diaz's character, Malkina, like the Judge from "Blood Meridian" or Anton Chigurh from "No Country For Old Men," orchestrates death...and ultimately finds immunity from it. Many who read "Blood Meridian" surmise that the Judge is a god. Chigurh is certainly a "prophet of death." Now, I'm not suggesting that Malkina is a goddess...but a "prophetess...of death"? Certainly. Malkina is certainly a McCarthy character -- but sadly, Diaz is the weakest link in the cast.
"The Counselor" is FILLED with other "McCarthisms" that I found noteworthy:
Death is meaningless and any attempt to avoid or escape it is futile. ("You can't stop what's comin'.") Death befalls those who don't necessarily deserve it; death, justly or unjustly, is often the result of choice by somebody other -- i.e. our choices will kill US...or kill those we love.
All in all, Scott's film is excellent -- but definitely more enjoyable if you LOVE McCarthy's writing style and his character's philosophies. The Jefe (played EXPERTLY by Ruben Blades) delivers an amazing monologue about how our choices CREATE our world. It's a timeless lesson.