MRR Review: "The Counselor"

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

MRR Review: "The Counselor"

Rating: R (Graphic violence, some grisly images, strong sexual content, and language)
Length: 117 min
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2013
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Moviemaking legend Ridley Scott has returned with yet another compelling thriller that stands out as one of his best yet even though it's less action-packed than some of his previous films, such as "Prometheus," "Black Hawk Down," and "Alien." Ridley Scott has already made a place for himself as one of the best directors and producers of all time, so it stands to reason that he would take some risks and expand his horizons. "The Counselor" is a successful attempt to make something that's not about war heroes or battles between monsters and men.

"The Counselor" is one of 2013's many drama thrillers, but it has an unusual story. While "The Counselor" has a large cast of characters, the movie is primarily about a greedy but upstanding lawyer who calls himself the Counselor. He enters the brutal world of drug trafficking in an attempt to gain even more riches than he already possesses and finds himself out of his league when pitted against the hardened criminals at work in this dark world. Other than his foolish and naive girlfriend, Laura, the Counselor is alone in this formidable, strange world that he thought he understood.

The screenplay for "The Counselor" is the first original movie screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, the American playwright and novelist responsible for masterpieces such as "The Road," which won the coveted James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction as well as the Pulitzer Prize. He also wrote the novel "No Country for Old Men," which was made into a film that won four Academy Awards. Drawing on his extensive experience as a renowned novelist, McCarthy created the brilliant screenplay for "The Counselor," and it was soon picked up by Ridley Scott.

Known for his sharp, professional appearance and rugged good looks, Michael Fassbender was quickly chosen to portray the Counselor himself after Ridley Scott saw his outstanding performances in "Hunger," "300," and "X-Men: First Class." The beautiful Penelope Cruz was an obvious choice for the role of Laura, the Counselor's girlfriend. Ridley Scott chose Cameron Diaz for the role of one of the film's other main characters, Malkina, an unusual character who is both a sociopath and a pathological liar and who lost her parents at a young age. In spite of her harsh background, Malkina is not an emotional person. Always seeking attention, she dresses flamboyantly and keeps a pair of tame cheetahs that match her flashy tattoos. Malkina and her boyfriend, Reiner, are a very dangerous couple. Javier Bardem of "Skyfall" and "No Country for Old Men" fame portrays Reiner, a powerful entrepreneur who also works as a prominent drug lord even though he lacks the intelligence of many of his enemies, which is a constant source of anxiety for him. Brad Pitt has a major supporting role as the shady Westray, a middle-aged man who is far more dangerous than his appearance suggests.

The edgy, dramatic tone of "The Counselor" is completed with a compelling soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton, an accomplished composer who has been nominated for multiple BAFTA awards and received an Ivor Novello award. "The Counselor" is one of the first major films Daniel Pemberton has composed for, but it hopefully won't be his last. The soundtrack for "The Counselor" is a powerful one that brings life to the thrilling scenes that often end in bloodbaths and carnage when dangerous characters cross paths. Together, the soundtrack and cinematography make "The Counselor" a true standout film. Ridley Scott chose Dariusz Adam Wolski to be in charge of the cinematography after working with him on several other projects. Drawing from his previous work on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, "Sweeney Todd," "Alice in Wonderland," "Eagle Eye," and Ridley Scott's own "Prometheus," Wolski strikes the perfect balance between chaos and carefully executed action scenes for "The Counselor."

"The Counselor" is an excellent film for anyone who appreciates a good crime thriller. The talented cast members add depth and emotion to the multitude of unique characters in "The Counselor," ensuring they're seen by audiences as real people instead of the stereotypical one-dimensional villains present in many modern crime thrillers. Critics and regular moviegoers who appreciate Ridley Scott's other work won't be disappointed by his latest movie, which is sure to rank as one of his best films yet.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5