This Week's Film Reviews (Oct 25th 2013)

25 Oct 2013



One might also want to check the TIFF Cinematheque series on the films of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn that begins this week.




Directed by Ridley Scott


            Touted as a suspense thriller written by Cormac McCarthy who wrote OLD COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, the film THE COUNSELOR has high potential.  Added to that, it is directed by ALIEN’s Ridley Scott with 5 big name stars, Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz, Javier Badem, Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt to its credit.

            The film even begins stylishly enough with a steamy sex scene between Fassbender and Cruz under the sheets.  With a wind swept sheet by the window and the camera panning the room to reveal two unseen figures beneath bed sheets, Scott appears to go for style.  This style is maintained throughout the entire film, often slowing the action too much or even distracting from the story.  Where it works, for example in Westray (Brad Pitt) assassination scene in London, the film soars.  But largely, the film is more style than substance.

            McCarthy’s script is fancy on words.  The telephone conversation between the counselor (who has no name) and a high-connected Mexican is both bitingly funny and sarcastically philosophical but that is as much as McCarthy can provide.  His script fails in the most essential elements in that none of the 5 characters develop in any way.  His cardboard characters remain stagnant from the start to finish.  Worst still, the counselor is depicted as a crybaby loser with no redeeming features that the audience could care for.  In fact, none of the 5 characters are likeable.

            It is clear that McCarthy penned his script following the Coen Brothers’ NO COUNTRY OF OLD MEN, an excellent dark comedy.  As in that classic, characters disappear suddenly just as they appear out of nowhere.  But in THE COUNSELOR, when this happens it feels like a script flaw, or an incident that is not seen through (like the biker son killed on the road).       

            One can only guess what this film might have been in the hands of the Coen Brothers, directors who have proven their genius in stylized films on overblown characters.  Under Scott’s hands, the result is a complete stylized bore.



THE SUMMIT (UK/Ireland 2012) **

Directed by Nick Ryan


This year sees two documentaries on climbing expeditions.  The soon to be released BEYOND THE EDGE from New Zealand traces the exhilarating climb to the top of Mount Everest.  In contrast, THE SUMMIT is an account of the 2008 tragic climb up and down K2, first conquered in 1954.  This film captures the horror of the deaths of 11 climbers, ill prepared of what is considered the most dangerous mountain in the world.  Both films combine interviews, archive footage and reenactments of the climbs.

The narrator in THE SUMMIT emphasizes the difficulties of K2 conditions – the disorientation from the high attitude sickness, darkness and physical separation existing among multiple teams from many countries and eyewitness accounts of the tragedy.  Till this day, no one is sure what actually happened and how the 11 climbers got killed.

Ryan’s film is chilling enough entertainment if not information.  There are scenes of complete darkness, howling winds and drifting snows.  But there are also stunning scenes of the ice and snow of the mountains and even of the deadly bottleneck ridges that the climbers have to conquer.  These account for the best that this film offers.

But Ryan’s film often shifts from the present (interviews) to the past from 3 weeks before the accent to a few months before to the night before the accent.  The organization of the timing of the interviews appears haphazard.  Ryan purposes to provide heroics to the killed Irish climber Ger for saving the lives of other climbers.  Whether Ger really saved those lives is likely to be true though it could still very much be speculation.

At the film’s end, the film turns out to be just as confusing as the tragic events that took place in 2008.  No conclusive answers are provided but the audience is at least treated to the feel the horrors that took place.




Best Film Opening: - (none)

Best Film Playing: Blue Jasmine

Bes Comedy: This is The End

Best Foreign: Les Salauds (Bastards)

Best Animation: Turbo

Best Action: Escape Plan

Best Documentary: Design One: Lella and Massimo Vignelli



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