The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford


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.



Total Count: 175


Audience Score

User Ratings: 98,068
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Movie Info

In 1881 a younger member of the notorious James gang becomes so inextricably drawn to and frightened of his mentor that his own delusions of grandeur force him to consider doing the unthinkable.


Brad Pitt
as Jesse James
Casey Affleck
as Robert Ford
Brooklynn Proulx
as Mary James
Sam Rockwell
as Charley Ford
Jeremy Renner
as Wood Hite
Sam Shepard
as Frank James
Paul Schneider
as Dick Liddil
Joel McNichol
as Express Manager
James DeFelice
as Baggagemaster
J.C. Roberts
as Engineer
James Carville
as Governor Crittenden
Nick Cave
as Bowery Saloon Singer
Zooey Deschanel
as Dorothy Evans
Darrell Orydzuk
as Ukranian Train Passenger
Jonathan Erich Drachenberg
as Young Train Passenger
Jonathon Young
as Jonathan Leonard
Torben S. Hansen
as Danish Train Passenger
Alison Elliott
as Martha Bolton
Kailin See
as Sarah Hite
Tom Aldredge
as Major George Hite
Jesse Frechette
as Albert Ford
Pat Healy
as Wilbur Ford
Michael Parks
as Henry Craig
Ted Levine
as Sheriff Timberlake
Stephanie Wahlstrom
as Store Customer
Ian Ferrier
as Photographer
Michael Rogers
as Onlooker at Jesse's Death
Calvin Bliid
as Small Boy at Jesse's Death
Sarah Lind
as Bob's Girlfriend
Matthew Walker
as Bowery Saloonkeeper
Michael Copeman
as Edward O'Kelly
Laryssa Yanchak
as Ella Mae Waterson
Hugh Ross
as Narrator
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News & Interviews for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

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

All Critics (175) | Top Critics (50) | Fresh (134) | Rotten (41)

  • 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.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello
    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.

    Sep 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

    Feb 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.

    Jan 4, 2008 | Full Review…
  • For all its intended depth and psychological realism, which at its best carries reminders of the work of Terrence Malick, there's a fake myth-making quality to it that, because of its inordinate length, could be mistaken for grandeur.

    Nov 30, 2007 | Rating: 3/5
  • A tremendously stylish, intelligent retelling of western myth.

    Nov 30, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | 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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