The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 2007

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Critics Consensus

On the strength of its two lead performances Assassination is an expertly crafted period piece, and an insightful look at one of the enduring figures of American lore.

77%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 175

75%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 98,208

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Movie Info

Infamous and unpredictable, Jesse James (Brad Pitt), nicknamed the fastest gun in the west, plans his next big heist while he launches pre-emptive strikes against those looking to collect the reward the law has placed on his head. Jesse's newest recruits, Robert (Casey Affleck) and Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell), grow increasingly jealous of the outlaw. When they sense an opportunity to kill Jesse, they gun him down, but their actions backfire when Jesse's fame is elevated to near mythical status.

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Critic Reviews for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

All Critics (175) | Top Critics (53) | Fresh (134) | Rotten (41)

  • Pitt, toying with his death-wish like some private joke, is eminently watchable in a role with little developmental arc; while Affleck, as his unwitting nemesis, takes his own mysterious integrity right to the grave.

    February 6, 2018 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    David Jenkins

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Quote not available.

    November 17, 2011 | Rating: 4/5
  • Writer-director Andrew Dominik takes his time with the story, but his languorous pacing allows tension to build -- and permits the actors, Affleck in particular, to add nuance and depth to characters who'll seem familiar only at first glance.

    October 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello

    NPR.org
    Top Critic
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is the story...of the moment in America when myth was murdered by mere celebrity and we were left, perhaps forever, with only the latter's meager consolations.

    September 18, 2008 | Full Review…
  • When Ford finally pulls the trigger, it's a relief as the flick's final ten minutes spin into actually interesting terrain

    February 22, 2008 | Rating: C- | Full Review…
  • Moseying along for 160 minutes, this revisionist western by writer-director Andrew Dominik makes a wan attempt to present the Jesse James legend as the dawn of celebrity culture in America.

    January 4, 2008 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

  • Oct 12, 2019
    The length of the piece serves to elegantly convey the pressure fear and distrust have on people over time...even friends, like acid, rendering even the slightest exchange potent with dark shadows of foreboding and betrayal. The quiet dance between liking someone and distrusting them simultaneously is at the heart of this sumptuous delight.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2015
    I am surprised to see that the Assassination of Jesse James did not receive more acclaim. To my mind it is just short of a modern classic: beautifully shot with gorgeous landscapes and nice costuming, strong pacing (to the extent that it did not feel like a long movie), and excellent acting. The only thing missing was an overpowering portrayal of Jesse James. Pitt's performance is solid but does not rank up there with DDL's Plainview in There Will Be Blood or Javier Bardem's Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. Nonetheless, the Assassination of Jesse James is a high four stars.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 05, 2013
    intriguing and equally as depressing. Brad Pitt capably delivers another fine performance, this time as the intrepid outlaw
    Sanity Assassin ! Super Reviewer
  • Aug 30, 2012
    In 2000, director Andrew Dominik exploded onto the scene with low-budget but powerful biographical film "Chopper" about Australian criminal Mark Brandon Read. It not only heralded the arrival of actor Eric Bana but also a new an uncompromising director. For his second feature he tackled another biographical feature about one of the wild west's most notorious gunslingers and this time, Dominik took his uncompromising nature even further. Retelling of the last months in the life of the legendary outlaw Jesse James and how his reputation was faltering. His gang had disbanded - either dead or in prison and Jesse was beginning to suffer increasing paranoia. After carrying out a train robbery he heads for Kentucky, only to reappear in Missouri for a bank robbery. Two brothers; Charley (Sam Rockwell) and Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) are part of his new gang but Robert has a dangerous and obsessive idolisation of Jesse and one that would finally be the outlaws undoing. Few film's ever get away with having a title as long as this one and even fewer get away with the manner in which this film is made. That's testament to the skill of Andrew Dominik and the backing of Brad Pitt who refused to yield to Hollywood studios when they wanted to tinker with Dominik's vision. Right from the opening, brutal, train robbery, this film's style is apparent. It's sense of realism is what commands your attention; it goes on to depict stark expansive landscapes, explosive bullet wounds and guns that don't shoot straight but the actual gunslinging is kept to a minimum, while it focuses on the characters themselves. The pace of the film is deliberate, adding to the ethereal feel throughout and one that reminded me of the approach that director Terrence Malick would use. Roger Deakins' cinematography is also a thing of absolute beauty. The entirety of every single frame of this picture is stunningly captured with meticulous attention to detail and Dominik's direction is near flawless. He lingers long on shots and subtle facial expressions and captures the uneasiness in the characters and their situations. By using this methodical style, he manages to get under the skin of his two leading characters and allows both Pitt and especially Affleck the room to deliver sensational performances. Pitt is entirely commanding and charismatic, adding just enough of a glimmer of danger without losing the audience's sympathy and Affleck is on top, creepy and unsettling, form. The chemistry between the two hints at all sorts of possibilities - including homoerotic tension. These two share an uneasy relationship and between them, there are contemporary issues at play; the nature of celebrity and hero worship and the difference between 'the man and the myth'. Even over 100 years ago they had this but although Dominik delivers this insight, he never fully explores it, leaving it all just a bit too ambiguous. I'm not looking for a film to spell everything out for me. On the contrary but for a film that languishes on detail and mood, it could have taken a little time to further explore these themes and the characters' motivations. There's a sense of bewilderment as to why James would even tolerate having Ford around when he, seemingly, knew that something wasn't quite right about him. He was aware that sooner or later he would meet his impending fate but it's unclear why he'd open himself up to it. Another area that lacks any attention, is the females in these men's lives. They are fleetingly visited but are ultimately insignificant and the likes of Mary-Louise Parker and Zooey Deschannel are reduced to mere cameos. I can only assume that these issues could maybe make more sense in Dominik's original 4 hour cut - that played at the Venice film festival before a widespread release reduced the film to it's 2hour 40mins duration. That being said, this is still an aesthetically successful endeavour that, although not fully deserving of the masterpiece status that many consider it to be, it's not far off it. A contemplative and demanding film that requires the utmost patience. It's highly ambitious, artistic and regularly poetic. Quite simply, it's beautifully done and I found lots to admire but it meanders and like the title itself, it's just a tad too long winded.
    Mark W Super Reviewer

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