The Counsellor (Michael Fassbender) finds his world, and fiancée (Penelope Cruz) in jeopardy when what should be a simple drug sale turns into a nightmare.
There has been much talk about The Counsellor, not least because of it’s amazing cast; Fassbender, Pitt, Bardem, Cruz and Diaz make up the central characters, with familiar faces dotted throughout the film. The script is veteran novelist Cormac McCarthy’s first direct to screen story and, as such, it is filled with the heavy and verbose dialogue that one would expect. Dialogue aside, however, The Counsellor boasts a remarkably familiar story; a man, used to the good life, turns to crime when his finances run dry, but the path to ill gotten riches rarely runs smoothly.
As the eponymous Counsellor, Michael Fassbender is on fine form. As his character is the heart of the film, he gives as strong a performance as we have come to expect from the actor, infusing his desperate situation with love for his fiancée Laura. Yes, Fassbender does well, but this is nothing we haven’t seen the actor do before. Javier Bardem ramps up his hair and wardrobe, as Reiner – the man who triggers the Counsellor’s greed – feels as frenetic as the décor of his home. Cruz has precious little to do, other than offer motivation for The Counsellor, which is disappointing. Brad Pitt delivers dialogue in his usual careful manner, which is always a pleasure to watch, and he looks better than he has in years. It’s poor old Cameron Diaz who comes off the worst here though. The actress has proven, time and again, that she has a talent for light comedy, with The Counsellor though, she struggles. At times, her dialogue feels forced, as though she is reading it from a cue card, and her character feels stunted surrounded, as she is, by a cast of strong actors. She still oozes sex though, which is a plus.
Speaking of sex, the film positively drips of it. The film is beautifully shot by Dariusz Wolski, which will give the cinematography nerds – myself included – something to get excited about, Diaz and Fassbender often look more like models than actual characters and that scene about Diaz’s car fetish… Let’s just say it’s rather explicit. That said, for all of the sex and innuendo in the film, it’s not a particular sexy affair.
Cormac McCarthy has created a cast of characters who inherently mistrust one another; the men are obsessed with women – even as they recognise they will never understand them – and the women are manipulative and cruel. Those who fall outside these descriptions are punished for not conforming to the norms of the film’s world. As well as this, while the story feels familiar, the film does not seem overly concerned with it, meaning that The Counsellor ends up feeling more like a series of monologues than a rounded film that has a story to tell. It looks good though.
The Counsellor is a film that has a familiar plot, which it does not concern itself with too much. McCarthy’s script is verbose and rambling, but Wolski’s cinematography is lush and beautiful. The Counsellor fails to live up to it’s hype as it fails to concern itself with the intricacies of story telling. It looks good though, and Scott directs competently. The Counsellor is a hot mess that is never quite boring; it’s just never quite interesting either.