My unfiltered thoughts about everything.
Films, like all art, are subjective. An audience sees what it wants to see on a screen. They take in what a writer, what a director, intends from a place that has no prior knowledge. Unlike the writer, and director, they don’t spend six months to a year bringing a story to life, living and breathing inside a synthetic world of made up protagonists and antagonists. They are handed a finished product, edited down from hours upon hours of footage into a concise (hopefully) hour and a half to three hour mental excursion. When they sit down in a theater, it is the job of those who are never seen to produce something tangible, relatable, and lasting. There are variables to this, as in the type of film, as in the aim of that film. Escapism through the catharsis of action is one. Relief from honest comedy is another. Films are created to impart ideas, sometimes important ones, others, just basic reminders of simple aspects in our lives.
The Counselor is a morality tale, told like a parable, spoken in a higher vocabulary. It’s high concept filtration for a very simplistic idea, that one bad decision, no matter the scale, can change the course of our lives indefinitely. It can destroy us. And all the film means to say, however layered the delivery, is just that. Why did Cormack MCarthy feel it appropriate to spin his yarn with such detail, when he could have made it almost Biblically meat and potatoes? Because people, unlike their understanding of right and wrong, are complicated. They say too much. They wax poetic, and laugh at nothing. Stripped of this, they are unimportant, pawns in a writers chess game. MCarthy imbues these characters, these morally hollow, yet criminally unprepared human beings, with a sense of education, of perceived thoughtfulness. Rest assured, they are lacking in much of both.
Violence is a means to an end. And in this film, like those of Sam Peckinpah, it isn’t a thing of stylized beauty. The colors aren’t mixed to achieve the catharsis of a Stallone death opera. Here, the violence is cold, messy and disquieting. It’s not intended for easy digestion. In fact, the most grotesque scenes wreak of a need to be over sooner than later. The game here goes from point A to point C with a knowing sense of dread. For all the early enthusiasm, all the good natured planning, knowing what Cormack MCarthy stands for, its easy to see that nothing can end well. And, for the record, it doesn’t.
Many critic and audience reviews have accused The Counselor of incoherence, and of needless carnage. From my vantage, those are unfounded accusations. The issue at hand is that the average movie goer is too narrow minded, too shallow, to comprehend the power of what’s there. What’s there, if one willing sees it, is a story about decisions and consequences, a story told with immaculate care, written to have substance. It doesn’t play nice. It doesn’t reward. It sets up something archaic in nature, old as time itself….and it paints the screen with the blood of the damned.
Final Review Grade: A+