I like Ridley Scott’s The Counselor so much I saw it twice this weekend. I like Cormac McCarthy’s screenplay so much I read it three times, months ago. Reading McCarthy’s words first helped me feel the same sensation I’d have if the movie was an adaptation of one his novels. The script itself is written in a format unlike any other I’ve ever seen. Stripped of all familiar slugline scene headers, abbreviations and transitions. Simplified dialogue laid out in natural lines of transcript conversation. Instead of the text being centered on the page, everything is justified to the left-hand margin, practically in paragraphs, as a regular novelette or short story would be. Scene descriptions are spartan but they’re composed of complex sentences instead of broken phrases. Why does any of this matter? On page 2, Michael Fassbender’s character says this:
Words are everything to a man. Or to some of us, anyway.
The presentation affects how McCarthy’s ideas enter our heads, or to my head anyway. The visual presentation of the written word and the cinematic richness Ridley Scott brings to all his films gave me all the thrill I needed or wanted this weekend. I’m only describing the layout of this screenplay to help explain how The Counselor got under my skin before I saw a single frame of the film. I realize that being acquainted with the words in print enhanced the satisfaction I felt watching the same scenes on screen. (I’m not even entirely sure the Fassbender line above made it into the final cut. Lots of long speeches in the screenplay aren’t in the movie).
But I don’t want to get into this any deeper right now. I’ll try to write something more meaningful in a day or two. I’m only posting this tonight as a place where anyone who saw The Counselor this weekend can come to talk about it, to think about it and fight about it. Most critics have savaged this film. Audiences by and large didn’t show up to buy tickets. Hopes for any awards attention seem as bleak as the movie’s own hellish story. But I hope a few critics feel the same way I do and include The Counselor on their 10 best lists at the end of the year. Obviously, I think it’s a knockout. Let’s hear how you feel.