No country for the faint of heart – ★★★★
Seinfield remarks that he doesn’t understand people who keep books quipping “you know when you read Moby Dick a second time, Ahab and the whale become good friends” and fortunately or not Ridley Scott’s new film will require more than one viewing to digest, absorb and process all that is contained within.
Hollywood isn’t often a place that revels in new ideas preferring to mine other mediums for inspiration and at the top of that list is the novel. McCarthy is in favour at the moment, having written the source texts for “The Road” and “No Country for Old Men”. Hollywood now have decided to cut out the middle man and get McCarthy to pen a screenplay from scratch. The result is an intrinsic addition to the McCarthy canon – The Counsellor.
The counsellor (Michael Fassbender) wants to invest in the drug dealing business and with some help from his friend Reiner (Javier Bardem) and middle man Westray (Brad Pitt) the deal is made. Simple? Wrong. The deal goes south (of the border down Mexico way) and the counsellor’s worst nightmares don’t come close to what is about to occur. It all started so simply with the counsellor whispering sweet nothings in to the ear of his girlfriend Laura (Penélope Cruz) but greed got in the way leaving him looking over his shoulder, afraid of his own shadow. He isn’t alone however as the men who are out to get him don’t believe he acted alone as Pitt proclaims “they don’t really believe in coincidences. They’ve heard of them. They’ve just never seen one.”
The film is a meditation on many things; greed, cause and effect, love, male female relationships, power and the brutally crushing reality of nature. As expected with a McCarthy piece it is dialogue heavy, abstract, yet lyrically beautiful in it’s execution. The tension is ratcheted slowly throughout making you unable to relax showcasing Scott’s deft hand behind the camera. No one will hold your hand and guide you like some drug mule through this piece you must be sharp and realise what is being discussed may never be seen, yet makes it no less terrifying. A conversation between Pitt and Fassbender’s characters regarding snuff films makes for one of the most gruelling and unpleasant scenes.
Fassbender has proclaimed he will not campaign for an Oscar for his soon to be seen part in 12 Years a Slave, yet he could be considered for his work here. A performance that must combine the cocky arrogance of a lawyer, the fragility of a lover and the terror of a hunted man. While most of McCarthy’s work is male dominated, in Cameron Diaz’s character Malkina, he has created someone with real depth who is crucial to the story instead of just mere eye candy – a refreshing change for modern movies. She may find herself in the running for Cate Blanchett’s Oscar come next year.
While Gravity may have been a feast for the eyes, The Counsellor is an intricate story that will test your limits. If you imagine John Grisham and Stephen King got together with Hitchcock to make a picture you’re beginning to get the idea. Shakespearean in its motifs you will find no happy endings here, but you knew better than that.
Released across Ireland on November 15th 2013
[imdb id =”tt2193215″]