How we use Cookies

What's On

Your guide to everything in Birmingham

Movie Review: The Counsellor (15)

Graham Young enjoyed this tense but dense thriller, but ultimately felt like the all star cast failed to sparkle

The Counsellor (15)
Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender star in The Counsellor
Brad Pitt and Michael Fassbender star in The Counsellor

Indefatigable British director Sir Ridley Scott is celebrating his 76th birthday a few days early – with the release of his eighth major film since British employment rules would have seen him put out to pasture.

Now there’s food for thought as you put your own feet up ready to enjoy the cast of the year which includes Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz.

The script of this tense but dense thriller is the debut original screenplay by 80-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy, whose stories have led to films like All The Pretty Horses, The Road and No Country For Old Men.

Michael Fassbender plays a respected lawyer known only as The Counsellor, whose girlfriend Laura (Cruz) tearfully accepts his marriage proposal.

“I intend to love you until I die,” he gushes.

That may be sooner than Laura thinks because the Counsellor has invested his fortune in a drug trafficking operation across the Texas-Mexico border. Inevitably, the deal goes bad and the Counsellor is marked for death along with two associates from the criminal underworld: floral-shirted playboy Reiner (Javier Bardem) and swaggering cowboy Westray (Brad Pitt).

Drug kingpin Reiner is distracted by his cheetah-owning scheming lover Malkina (Cameron Diaz), while Westray has a weakness for women and booze.

“It’s not that you’re going down, Counsellor... it’s what you’re taking down with you,” Westray remarks sagely, before he boards a plane bound for London.

The film’s locations include London, Amsterdam, Chicago and Mexico – where Tyneside-born Scott proves he hasn’t lost his eye for landscape when working with cinematographers like Dariusz Wolski (Prometheus/Crimson Tide).

Most recently the bad guy in Skyfall, the stand-out star is Javier Bardem complete with outlandish clothes and dark glasses. But the women’s roles are too marginalised in a film which feels as if the superstar cast were unavailable to work together.

Instead of being plaited with a free-flowing narrative, it’s like one of those compartmentalised, themed movies shot by nine different directors. Despite some lovely exchanges and cracking lines, The Counsellor is too complex and wordy for its own good, so it’s Cormac 1, Scott 0.

And yet,  maybe like Scott’s now legendary Blade Runner (1982), once the dialogue has become more familiar it might be reflected upon in 10 years’ time as being a better thriller than it can be given credit for today.



Graeme Brown
Editor (Agenda and Business)
Enda Mullen
Business Reporter
Tamlyn Jones
Business Reporter
Neil Elkes
Local Government Correspondent
Emma McKinney
Education Correspondent
Ben Hurst
News Editor
Jonathan Walker
Political Editor