Cormac McCarthy’s The Counsellor is often overlooked when it comes to discussing the American literary giant’s great works. I read the screenplay over the weekend and found it a fascinating read. Today, I am going to focus on the five main characters instead of doing a traditional book review. Hopefully it will inspire you to read the screenplay yourself or revisit the 2013 film. I hope that you do and share your thoughts!
To begin, I feel that I should clear up three things:
Firstly, I must admit that I am a Cormac McCarthy superfan. If he wrote the new phone book, I’d hang onto every word and probably quote it back to my friends.
Secondly, I must confess that I didn’t particularly enjoy the film version of The Counsellor when I saw it in the cinema. I was nervous when I began reading this as it came in screenplay form and these can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to reading material.
Finally, here in Europe we spell Counsellor with two L’s so I apologise to my American cousins if there is any confusion.
Now I am going to examine the five main characters of The Counsellor. While I do so, I encourage you to listen to this song from the film’s trailer to add to the suspense!
Reiner: This character represents the lustful playboy of the criminal world. He is in it purely for the pleasure, not the business. He needs the money to fuel his lifestyle and is willing to take risks to get it. His whole life is a dice roll. This makes everything he does a risk including his image, his choice of women and his business interests. He likes exotic things and would sell his soul to the devil in the name of fun. He stays with Malkina precisely because he does not fully understand her. Even though he fears her, he is drawn to her and the life that she represents like a moth to a flame.
Westray: In his own mind, he is the only man with a plan. He presents himself as a cold and calculating businessman fully informed of the world and its harsh realities. Brazenly disloyal, Westray taunts the Counsellor with vague advice and threats while refusing to offer any actual meaningful help. He knows the potential consequences of his business dealings and boasts of having the perfect exit strategy. He has it all worked out. What could possibly go wrong?
His weakness is that his greed has allowed him to hang there for one more score. This is the classic mistake and his ultimate downfall. Unbeknownst to himself, most of his prophecies come true before the stories end except he is more involved in these prophecies than he predicts.
The Counsellor: The epitome of greed. The Counsellor already has everything that Westray and Reiner do not; mainly a job that pays well in both money, power and respect and a beautiful fiancé who loves him. Unlike the others though he is completely unaware of the consequences of his decisions. He is willing to take a little risk to make big gains. This contrary to the fact that the world does not work like this. There is nothing brave about him and ultimately he proves his cowardly nature as events unfold. His power and influence as a counsellor are of no help to him when he experiences a total lack of control for the first time in his life. Even though most of the characters in this story suffering as a result of their greed, the Counsellor probably suffers the most.
Malkina: The quintessential femme fatale. She changes the rules of the game by ignoring concepts such as loyalty and her status as the weaker gender to emerge on top. Her exceptional knowledge of technology gives her an edge in a brutal and bloody business. This also helps keep her hands clean. When she spots a gap, she ruthlessly exploits it. We see her do this many times, sometimes just for fun. The scene in the confession booth is the best example of this. Like her cheetahs, she presents herself as an exotic and dangerous creature. At first glance she may blind you with startling beauty and grace but underneath she harbours a bubbling and deadly rage. She is an outsider who has placed herself right on the inside. She has everyone right where she wants them and they don’t even know it.
Laura: Grossly naive. She asks no questions, trusts everyone and positively exudes innocence. Laura floats through events as a bystander making her the complete opposite to Malkina in many ways. Her innocence and naivety see her getting sucked into dangerous events as a result of the decisions and actions of others. This is not fair but this is how the world often is. She represents the average working class person who suffers due to the greedy politicians and businessmen in the real world.
Before you go…
Have a look at the official trailer for the 2013 movie starring Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt. I feel that this trailer massively oversold this film to the general public by making it out to be a completely different kind of film. It’s still a cool trailer though!
Well what do you think? Did I get them right or do you have a completely different view? What do you think of Cormac McCarthy’s The Counsellor?