Novel Chemistry Abounds in "The Counselor"

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
November 7th, 2013

Novel Chemistry Abounds in "The Counselor"

Director Ridley Scott brings the first screenplay by Cormac McCarthy to life in this original thriller. McCarthy is one of the most well-known authors in the suspense and thriller genre, weaving tales of political intrigue. "The Counselor" is a fast-paced dramatic thriller that chronicles the life and misadventures of the Counselor, an unnamed attorney who finds himself in far over his head in a world of betrayal and corporate lies. Although the attorney has lived a life of integrity and forthrightness, the temptation to accept a lucrative and scandalous deal from a drug lord is far too much to resist.

Against the advice of his friends and colleagues, the Counselor decides to do business with a nefarious drug trafficking group. The opportunity seems almost providential in light of his recent financial difficulties. He accepts the deal and agrees to become involved in drug trafficking in an effort to maintain the affections of his love interest. What he doesn't realize is that letting down a drug lord is a far more dangerous affair than letting down the head of a law firm. As the film progresses, the Counselor realizes that the consequences for failure are as great as the rewards for success when it comes to the shady underworld of criminals.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects of the chemistry in "The Counselor" is that the titular character is never named. The film is told through his point of view, and various scenes are narrated from his recollections. The entire basis of the film is this generic character's interactions and chemistry with the others he meets. As he interacts with each one, his character is fleshed out and developed a little more. While other characters are named throughout the film, the lead remains a mysterious figure. The lack of personalization serves to put the viewer into his shoes, making the film all the more engaging and tense. Michael Fassbender takes on the role of the Counselor, injecting personality and style into this vaguely described character. The viewing experience is similar to reading a novel, showing off McCarthy's signature writing style with each scene. The characters in "The Counselor" have a depth more common to characters from a full-length novel rather than film characters.

"The Counselor" features a star-studded cast, including Brad Pitt, Penélope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, and Javier Bardem. Each character is important to the film, moving the plot along in a unique way. Cruz portrays Laura, the Counselor's love interest. Laura is a mysterious woman accustomed to an extravagant lifestyle. She has plenty of seductive charm and inspires the Counselor to better his circumstances to the point where he is willing to break the law and risk his life to impress her. The on-screen chemistry between Cruz and Fassbender is uncanny, adding a dimension of romance and suspense to the film that will stay with viewers for a long time.

Diaz portrays Malkina, a beautiful and mysterious woman with a dark past that threatens the Counselor's future. The on-screen pair have a cat-and-mouse relationship filled with almost as much chemistry as there is between the main character and his love interest, albeit of a decidedly different variety. Pitt portrays Westray, a legal associate who attempts to convince the main character not to get involved in the dark underworld of the drug trade. He knows a fair deal about the people his friend is planning to work with, and he warns him that they are capable of anything when it comes to obtaining their goals. Pitt's character is constantly serving as a conscience for his friend, causing tension in their relationship.

"The Counselor" is an intriguing and thoughtful piece of cinema that feels more like a suspense novel in visual format than a traditional film. Cormac McCarthy fans will undoubtedly be thrilled to see their favorite author's work come to life on the big screen, but no familiarity with the author's work is necessary to appreciate this masterpiece. Although the film features an all-star cast, each one of the characters is vibrant and full of unique personality. As the Counselor gets more and more involved in the dark world of drug trafficking, the visuals of the film reflect a deceptively beautiful and glamorous world. While the film starts out as a legal thriller, you will quickly realize that the main story revolves around the complex chemistry between the Counselor and everyone whose path he crosses throughout the film. From visuals to plot, "The Counselor" is one thriller you won't want to miss.