Review: The Counselor

Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Ridley Scott's The Counselor.
Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender in Ridley Scott’s The Counselor.


Thelma & Louise feels like a long time ago.
Rating: *

The Counselor is a blow to our senses. And our expectations. I certainly didn’t expect a shoddy two-hour motion picture from either Ridley Scott or screenwriter Cormac McCarthy.

Michael Fassbender plays the titular Counselor who gets in over his head, and indulges in a drug trade that involves a shady man called Reiner (Javier Bardem) even though another shady man named Westray (Brad Pitt) warns him not to. Phew!

This trade of course is defied by the brutal Mexican drug cartel, who have become a go-to nemesis in most crime films involving cocaine and gangs.

There seems to be a message in this film. Go down the bad path, and bad shit will happen to you.

Surely, there could have been an easier way of telling us that instead of making this incomprehensible mess. The Counselor, being a Ridley Scott film feels more like a Tony Scott film. There’s that slickness in editing and cinematography, that Ridley generally ignores, and Tony embraces. Sadly, the dialogue is nowhere close to either of their creations.

Screenwriter McCarthy has visited the wrong aisle in the library. Instead of taking dialogue that is as conventional as a Tarantino film, the monologues sound more like George Bernard Shaw or even Shakespeare. While explaining greed, one of the key characters, Malkina (Cameron Diaz in a nightmarish role) says:

“I suspect that we are ill-formed for the path we have chosen. Ill-formed and ill-prepared. We would like to draw a veil over all the blood and terror that have brought us to this place. It is our faintness of heart that would close our eyes to all of that, but in so doing it makes of it our destiny. But nothing is crueller than a coward, and the slaughter to come is probably beyond our imagining.”

Even when I was 100 minutes into the film, I thought Scott would pull away from the misery by adding one of two thrilling set pieces. None of which happens.

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Jane Eyre

Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska in Cary Fukunaga's 2011 version of Jane Eyre.

Darkly Fascinating Retelling of Bronte’s Novel

Rating: ***

I’ve seen two versions of Jane Eyre before I chanced upon this. The 1943 version was a classic which starred Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles. The 1996 version, despite its high production value wasn’t satisfactory when it came to performances. William Hurt was miscast as Rochester and so was Charlotte Gainsbourg as Jane. There is another adaptation, released in 1970 which starred Susannah York and George C. Scott.

This 2011 retelling is directed by Cary Fukunaga. Dark elements have been added to the screenplay and while a few contents from the novel have been snipped, screenwriter Moira Buffini brings to life a darkly fascinating Jane Eyre. Presented in In Media Res mode, Jane’s life flashes back and forth through the years of visual torture she experienced at her aunt’s home and at Lowood School. While the earlier versions didn’t reveal much about her torture, Fukunaga takes his time in exposing what harsh realities Jane has been subjected to.

Mia Wasikowska is bang on as Jane Eyre. Her simplistic portrayal of the governess is ardently conservative. The film promotes proto-feminism which was first introduced in the novel. 22-year old Ms. Wasikowska puts up a ravenous show in the scenes where she confronts Rochester’s freewill. Michael Fassbender easily trots into shoes of the Byronic Hero, Edward Rochester. Once he descends his cold eyes on Jane, he’s hooked on to her simplicity. But, he takes his own time in explaining his love of her. Nevertheless, Fassbender has the spirit of the character.

While Judi Dench’s Mrs. Fairfax doesn’t appear as jovial as the character does in the novel, there are moments where she relegates her co-stars into mere puppets. Cinematographer Adriano Goldman hops from one place to another, filling the screen with luscious English architecture.

The references to the earlier versions are just a syllable to what Fukunaga’s version transpires to be. The film redeems itself of the novel’s gothic allusion and is pertinent to Bronte’s vision of the troubled damsel who wanted nothing but a full life. Apparently, quite a few scenes have been excluded. But, I hear Fukunaga is planning to release a Director’s Cut which will have 30 minutes of extra footage.

While Jane Eyre isn’t shot in the Kubrickian way, it doesn’t slog either. It is an indication that this tale of passion hasn’t died out. But, I’m in doubts about the future adaptations of the novel as today’s fantasy readers are thriving about vampires and magic.