So I sat down and watched The Counsellor the other day and based on the DVD cover I was expecting good things - it was directed by Ridley Scott, stars the likes of Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz and the review extracts on the back were all positive. I was expecting good things because I thought that the mixture of talent here couldn't lead to failure, but I was wrong.
The film was trying to be smart for smarts sake, it was too smart when it didn't need to be and as a result it became a muddled mess. There was little to no set up of the story, character motivations and reasonings weren't clear, questions that were raised during the film weren't answered and some of the dialogue was pretentious and sometimes had little connection to the overall story. The Counsellor was overly complicated when it had no real reason to be. Don't get me wrong, I like smart films and smart film making when its done right. But when a director tries to afford smarts to a film that doesn't require an abundance of it, then the film quickly becomes a burden.
It happened with Prometheus, another Ridley Scott film. Personally I liked Prometheus (I know that there is a rather large majority of people out there who didn't like it), but that still doesn't stop it from falling pray to over-complication. Prometheus is a slightly different kettle of fish, it's a science fiction film and as such, explores many different themes and asks many question like any science fiction film does. Prometheus explores some interesting themes and boldly makes statements with regards to it's subject matter. Prometheus raises many questions and sets up many things but fails to go anywhere with most of them.
Take films that are smart but done well, look at Christopher Nolan's films - Inception and Memento. Despite his recent efforts, Ridley Scott has made some brilliant films, Blade Runner immediately comes to mind. There are other "good" smart films as well; Seven, Fight Club, The Usual Suspects, The Matrix and Pulp Fiction to name but a few. They explore themes and raise questions, have copious amounts of dialogue and have multiple stories running at once. But due to overall directing choices, these films are slick - smart but effortlessly so. There aren't many elements that are included in these films that have no purpose; they are simple because all of the different aspects within them are clear and are also easy to identify.
A "good" smart film will leave you wanting answers and asking questions but not usually about the poor and strange directorial choices that left you so confused that you couldn't figure out what was going on and what actually happened over the course of the film. I can't stand those types of film because they seem like a waste.
I understand that this subject is obviously down to a matter of personal preference and what you enjoy. What I might find hard to understand, someone else might think it's one of the easiest films to grasp - I'm pretty sure there is someone out there who is calling me an idiot for not being able to understand what happened in The Counsellor.
What Do You Think?
What films do you find hard to follow and didn't enjoy because they tried too hard?
What films explore the smart angle well?
Leave a comment below.