One line we hear in writing workshops is “Whose story is this?” Somebody should have asked that to the studio before they released “The Counselor”. It’s got a good cast, Penelope is decent, Brad Pitt is better, Javier Barbem and Carmen Diaz are wonderful. Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors, but I can’t recommend the movie. All that talent is wasted.
Cormac McCarthy (the writer) is an acquired taste. His stories are unceasingly dark, the good guys rarely come out on top and his tales can be hit or miss. The Road was a hit for me, but The Counselor misses by a mile.
Spoiler Alert! Mild spoilers below.
It all boils down to ‘whose story is it?” In this movie Michael Fassbender and Cruz carry the main narrative – we see them snuggling in bed, we see Fassbender dithering about jumping into a life of crime, but as a viewer, I didn’t care. Fassbender and Cruz were roadkill, victims of circumstance and malice. The much more interesting characters were played by Bardem and Diaz. We see a fair amount of Bardem, but I would have liked to have seen more. Diaz is the force that drives this movie, this is her story. She’s the one that counts, but we don’t see enough of her and the movie drags. I kept punching the fast forward button. The problem was I was in a movie theater. Can’t recommend this one, folks.
The moral is when you’re crafting a story, a novel or a screenplay, figure out who is the engine that moves the story and focus on that character.