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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

9 Ratings: 3.4
A movie

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Genre: Western, Action, Drama, Adventure
Release Date: September 21, 2007
MPAA Rating: R
1 review about The Assassination of Jesse James by the...

Jesse James (beautifully) Shot Dead!

  • Jun 14, 2009
Once in a while, a film comes along that truly astonishes on every level and you feel compelled to implore everyone you know to see it. For me, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is one of those films.

The movie successfully debunks the mythology behind Jesse James, often wrongly depicted as a Robin Hood figure. Here he is painted as a troubled, violent, malicious and paranoid man unable to let go of his 'glory days' and struggling to cope with his own notoriety and fame. Indeed, the notion of fame and celebrity is at the core of this film - hero worship and idolizing, the fight for recognition, coping with notoriety, having to live up to an perceived image. In many respects, those issues give the film a contemporary angle. The themes are highly relevant in today's celebrity obsessed culture.

Sophomore director Andrew Dominik - whose impressive debut movie, Chopper, also examined the idea of criminal as celebrity - proves himself to be a director of considerable skill, making a film that is as intelligent as it is beautiful - and it's impossible to talk about this film without mentioning the way it looks. Quite simply, this is one of the most beautifully shot movies I've ever seen. Painted with brown and ochre hues and infused with a golden luminance. Every frame is composed and lit to perfection. It's a crime that cinematographer Roger Deakins didn't win the Oscar for his work here.
The production and costume design are equally impressive. Such is the attention to detail in this film, they even digitally erased part of Brad Pitt's middle finger on his left hand (a real disfigurement that James had) every time it's shown.

The standard of acting is extremely high right across the board. In fact, there isn't a single poor performance in the entire movie, which is astonishing given the size of the cast. Pitt delivers perhaps his finest performance to date. He imbues Jesse with a charming yet sinister quality, with disillusion, melancholy and madness in his eyes. Casey Affleck steals the film though. His portrayal of Robert Ford is masterful. He manages to make you sympathize for the character even though he's unlikable, pitiable and often downright disturbing.

The score to this film, by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, is superb too. Mournful, foreboding, earthy yet ethereal, perfectly matching the tone of the film.

This movie is composed of many long scenes and moves at a stately, measured pace. Personally, I love this style of film-making, but if you're more suited to fast editing, action and snappy dialogue then you will almost certainly find this movie way too slow. In both its appearance and construction, the film bought to mind the work of Terrence Malick. Days of Heaven was an obvious reference point for this film, I feel. It also bought to mind Walter Hill's underrated The Long Riders, which makes an excellent companion piece to this film.

If you're a fan of well acted, well made, character driven movies or love westerns in general then this film should not be missed.

What did you think of this review?

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July 27, 2010
I just watched the movie this past week after a friend's suggestion. I was going to write a review, but you said it so perfectly I see no point. So I guess my review is this: "ditto." (And kudos.)
July 27, 2010
Thanks, allihester! I'm so glad you enjoyed the movie as much as I did. Now you have to go bug all your friends to watch it too! :)
July 17, 2010
I LOVE this film. Flat out fantastic as stated. I was going to write a review on it...but hell man, you said all I was going to say. Easily in my Top 10. If you want another equally as beautiful film with a touching, imaginative story look up Tarsem's "The Fall". its MAGNIFICENT. I will be posting a review soon.
July 17, 2010
Thanks, swisschez! I haven't seen "The Fall" yet, but I have heard good things about it. I'll be really interested to read your review. :)
July 06, 2010
Excellent, excellent review! I saw this movie a few days ago sadly I caught it somewhere in the middle I am going to have to see the whole thing from beginning to end becuase what I saw was just so engrossing it is one of those westerns that just draws you in and it never lets go. Great work!
July 06, 2010
Thanks, Lopez15! Yeah, you simply MUST watch the whole movie. Superb stuff. Be sure to let us all know what you think when you've seen it :)
May 16, 2010
great great review, Simon! I saw this when it first came out and it was one of those things that really snuck up on me because I wasn't expecting it to be that good! Some people didn't like the pacing but it was just right for me too, I thought the way it took its time on some scenes was clever. Nice work on this, I will feature this tomorrow since I try to add new ones to feature every 2-3 days! Thanks for the review!
May 18, 2010
Cheers, Woopak! I can't believe this film was, and continues to be, so overlooked. I'll just keep on recommending it until more people see it! :)
May 19, 2010
Great stuff! I will feature your review in the LOOK BACK feature of the weekly newsletter and I will keep it featured in the community homepage for awhile. I agree that more folks need to see a great film like this, amazing how the great ones tend to get overlooked.
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