At first glance McCarthy's recent screenplay seems to be a rather formulaic Aristotelian tragedy. But on closer examination, its unflinching look at cartel violence raises questions that have long animated critical debate about tragedy. Is tragedy more about the existential plight of a lone individual or the political crisis of a community? Is tragic recognition a matter of stoic acceptance or solidarity with the suffering? Does tragedy veil particular contingent instances of loss and violence as immutable aspects of the human condition? Is true tragedy resolutely pessimistic? If so, is tragedy effectively dead in the modern West, which has inherited religions of messianic hope and mythologies of secular progress? Or do these currents open up the possibility of new forms of tragedy? The Counselor explores all of these questions, and it ultimately stages a choice between two possible responses to the tragic—stoic resignation or radical hope.

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