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The Counselor by Daniel Pemberton (Review)

posted Oct 28, 2013, 8:52 PM by Kaya Savas

Ridley Scott is one of the most respected and prolific directors of all-time. His films are truly a creation of different worlds, and his handling of stories is exceptional. He is also one of the few directors who knows how to truly use score to its full effect, and he rarely changes composers once he’s found one he likes. So, it was of great interest when it was learned that Marc Streitenfeld would not be scoring The Counselor and it would instead be Daniel Pemberton. Pemberton got the gig actually through editor Pietro Scalia who recommended him to Ridley after working on a video game project with Daniel. Pemberton has scored many notable things such as The Awakening, Blood, Little Big Planet 2 and The Movies. The Movies was a video game from 2005, and it was my first introduction to his music which I loved. The Counselor is an amazingly strong effort from the young Pemberton who shows how to really craft soundscapes, tension, mood and themes to carry a story.

The Counselor is a film that struggles to find its pace and flow, but all that can be pointed at novice screenwriter Cormac McCarthy who should stick to novels. The score on the other hand is the best thing about the film. The opening credit sequence alone is brilliant, especially with how the music works with the editing. What the music does do is really flesh out everything we see from the characters, the plot points, the scene builds and more. It’s a score that truly adds a lot with so little. The music can be bold when it needs to, but there is a lot of silence in this film as well. Pemberton shows a lot of restraint when his music is not needed, and through precision is able to really hone in on what the scenes need when music is required. His central theme which bookends the score is beautifully haunting. He adds a spaghetti western motif to the score as well, but it has a more menacing quality to it than a fun one. The electronic work here is fantastic as his textures and tones work wonderfully to create that “below the surface” tension. The music is clean and crisp. It ties up the whole story with a dreary “told you so” feel as you witness the characters dig themselves into a deeper hole they cannot escape from. I was extremely satisfied musically even if the film lacked in other areas.

The Counselor does have its share of problems as a film, but the score is not one of them. Daniel Pemberton’s score is a fantastic modern exercise in precision scoring to create a seedy cautionary tale. The story’s themes of doomed greedy characters being hunted by a master hunter is expertly reflected in the score. The film is not terrible, it’s far from it. It’s a decent story that is benefitted greatly from Daniel Pemberton’s wonderfully entrancing score, and is worth exploring.