The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Published on July 6th, 2011

James recommends the tragically under-seen film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

That’s just the title, not my synopsis. However, it does give you a pretty good indication about what you’re getting into. This isn’t a Sandra Bullock revenge film, it’s a western; a quiet, engaging, gorgeous, dramatic western. Yes, there is gunplay and some implied sex, but don’t go into this movie expecting anything close to an action film; it is undoubtedly a drama. Brad Pitt is Jesse James and plays him with a disturbing likeability and sense of distant yet powerful intensity. However, the real star of the film is Casey Affleck, playing the 19 year-old Robert Ford, who is determined to prove that he is more than just the youngest brother of some of Jesse James’ accomplices, despite his involuntarily cracking voice doing nothing to dispel that image. The movie is largely a character study of these two men and the way their complicated relationship develops in a totally non-Brokeback kind of way. The world of this movie is fully fleshed-out with subplots about the other Fords, the James family and the dying days of the Old West. The performances are great across the board with Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Paul Schneider, and others hitting all the right notes. The Nick Cave & Warren Ellis score is enchanting, setting the eerie and beautiful tone of the film in the opening frames. Coen Brother film veteran Roger Deakins’ cinematography is nothing short of gorgeous as it depicts the serenity and loneliness of frontier life. Running at nearly 3 hours, and with a low body count, the film may or may not be your thing; if you had trouble making it through The Tree of Life, you may want to skip this one. If you appreciate a movie that takes its time to get to its destination, albeit while being enjoyable the whole way, then you should absolutely check out what was one of the best films released in 2007 (a year that also saw Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, Gone Baby Gone, and There Will be Blood, among others). The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford spans several years, covering the themes of trust, celebrity, sibling rivalry, and revenge, managing to bring something new to each. Even if you give it a shot and turn it off halfway through, it’s still worth a shot. Your bandwidth isn’t that valuable, is it?

 

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