Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Counsellor Review

Words Nicola Johnston

What is the purpose of art? A film? A painting? A poem? A song? A dance? A play? Whatever form of art it is, surly the answer is to provoke thought, and this film does just that.

The first thing that struck me about this film was its poster, the cast all looking extremely polished and airbrushed, cartoon like in a way, unreal and perfect, and then you see Michel Fassbender’s face and its quite different, his lines, broken veins and stubble are on full show, real and raw and more importantly believable.

Sitting down and watching the film was very interesting because there is no time spent on leading you into who these people are, no backstory is given, unless you have seen the short clips on YouTube that is, which I hadn’t seen. You are literally dropped with a thud, into the lives of these people. The clever result being that it makes you think and ask questions right from the start. What’s going on? And that is something you continue to ask yourself the whole way through the film, and long after you leave the cinema. 

It is a film that provokes thought and debate.  You are forced into this uneasy sense of not quite knowing what is going to happen next. The questions of, who are these people? Why do they do what they are doing?  And What for? Are questions that hang heavily from start to finish? Money, greed and power seem to be the objective and why they do it seems to be out of boredom or out of survival or perhaps it is just that human instinct is at play.

It is of course human instinct to always want more, make something better and to take risks. Ambition can be a very dangerous drive, just look at what happens to Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, when they know that they are damned. It seems to me that one of the strongest themes in The Counsellor, is that it’s all ok until its not, and then the smallest things are the most important of all, and none of those things ever cost any money at all.  The act of breathing becomes sacred and one last smile or kiss from the one you love becomes worth more than all the gold in the world.

I admire Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay because he writes for his actors, and they must have enjoyed every second working with this incredible script and on their characters, because their imaginations would have been in full working mode.  Nothing is given to them on a plate and no spoon-feeding has been offered, to them or to us the audience. It is a true ensemble piece of work.

 Why do people do what they do? Sometimes there are no easy answers, or in some cases no answer at all. Life can be cruel, the survival of the fittest and with the human race unlike the animal kingdom, we have to contend with money, success and greed. The more money you have, the more power you have, and the further away from nature and what is real you can become if you’re not extremely mindful.

This film looks at the individual choices we make, the decisions we come to and ultimately what we choice to do or not to do, is what maps out our lives, however our choices and decisions also always have consequences and ultimately always effect others.  It is very selfish and also pretty naive to think if we make mistakes we only have ourselves to blame because it will always affect someone else. We are left asking ourselves the question, why did I do that? Why was I so stupid? Or is it that we do not all deserve a happy ending. Is it true we all must pay for our sins, or at least pay for our actions?

The Counsellor  stopped production for two weeks so that Ridley Scott could mourn his brother and the film seems to be very much in his brother Tony Scott’s style, operatic and stylized, wild and somewhat over the top but covered and splashed in such beauty. The movement and pace of the film are like a ballet, the costumes are full of detail, each and every one of them support and represent the character who wears them to perfection. 

The characters are presented to us, as are the world in which they live, and then its up to us the audience to judge for ourselves, to go away and have a conversation about what we have seen, whether it be good or bad, I am sure that this is a film that will make you talk about it, which really is the highest of achievements any filmmaker could hope to achieve. I wont be giving any spoilers about the film, we all have to make up our own minds, but as far as the art of filmmaking goes this is a brilliant piece of work, which is executed to the highest of standards, full of thought, detail and brutal honesty. How much do you value your life and the lives of others and what happens when you sell your soul to the devil? 

When I came home after seeing this film, I re-watched Jonny Depp’s masterpiece “The Brave” and also re-read Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” so I was certainly inspired.  The power of Seneca and that of Greek Tragedy was that the violence and murders all happened off stage and the chorus described to the audience the brutality that had taken place, in this film you have this powerful tool in the writing, in which we the audience get to imagine what is being described to us. The hunter always gets it’s pray in the end, but how long will it play and toy with it first is the question? And for the pray, if only it had stayed hidden or in its natural habitat perhaps it might have lived to see another day but then again temptation is very hard to ignore and evolution can be constructive but also terrifyingly destructive. 
It’s a challenging film, with brilliant writing, its new and its different, it was shot in seven weeks, its stressful, it funny, its painful, its entertaining and now its up to you to go and see it or not, and ultimately make up your own mind.

THE COUNSELLOR reaches cinemas nationwide November 14th
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