Monday, February 25, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

DAN - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is the second film from New Zealand director Andrew Dominik. Robert Ford is a young amateur criminal who worships Jesse James, the most notorious outlaw of the nineteenth century. When he gets the opportunity to join James’ gang, Ford comes to know his idol on a personal level. This film chronicles Ford’s involvement in the final years of James’ life.

I make an effort to avoid spoiling plot points in my reviews, but this movie’s title sort of gives one away. Robert Ford assassinates Jesse James. Part of the film’s charm lies in the fact that the audience is aware of this fact. I personally found it enthralling to watch these characters interact, knowing that one would eventually kill the other.

Casey Affleck gives an intricate portrayal of a troubled Ford as he transforms throughout the film. Ford simultaneously admires, fears, and wants to destroy his hero. Affleck is able to convey these conflicting emotions in a palpable manner, and he seems to do so with ease. In fact, I cannot think of one performance in this film that is sub-par. The ensemble is fantastic.

The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is bittersweet. It sometimes comes across as a lullaby for Jesse James, which is both beautiful and strange. It is most effective during segments of narration by Hugh Ross, which are peculiarly mesmerizing in their composition.

My only negative critique is a minor one; this movie is long. Its runtime is 160 minutes, but the slow plot makes it seem even longer. However, each individual scene is a work of art, aided immensely by Roger Deakins, whose cinematography is innovative and captivating. If your attention span can handle it, this film is definitely worth watching.


STEVE - Brad Pitt stars as the outlaw Jesse James in the indie western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The film which is almost as long as its title, being that it clocks in just under three hours is about two separate men; the first man being the criminal Jesse James, who through crime and murder has achieved fame and novelty and has become an American icon. The other man is the coward Robert Ford, who wants have the fame and fortune that Jesse has, but even more prominently, to be Jesse James.

We obviously know from the title of the film that Jesse James will indeed die. So it’s no shock to the audience when the coward Robert Ford assassinates the famous outlaw. However, it’s the trip we take as a viewer, into the minds of these two characters, that really makes the climax of the film all that more consequential.

Something absolutely terrific that this movie does so very well that you don’t usually find in other works of film, is deep, deep, deep character development. This film takes you into the depths of these two men’s souls. We know what there thinking, why there thinking it, and why in the end, Robert Ford does what he does.

Because of how much time and energy is spent delving into the characters of the story we are left with a long run time. But it’s worth it, it’s so very much worth it. Terrific performances by the whole cast including my new favorite actor Casey Affleck, beautiful cinematography, excellent directing and wonderful execution. This movie comes highly recommended.

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