The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Reviews
A long, brooding western. Yet it is a treasure chest of acting. Casey Affleck gives his best performance as Robert Ford. Ruthlessly envious, and yes, a coward. Brad Pitt is equally amazing as Jesse James. Deakins is one of the very best cinematographers out there, and this is some of his best work. Even when he's not with the Coen bros. he's killing it elsewhere. Storytelling style was very well done, which included a great narration that reminded me of Ricky Jay's from Magnolia. What is even more interesting than the story leading up to the assassination. is what happens after, and the guilt, or lack thereof, from Rob Ford. He wanted to become a hero, and instead, became a loser, for all the people he thought hated Jesse James, had idolized him. Tragic irony, and karma is the main theme of this film, much like Amadeus. This was a great watch.
not disappointed. What had taken me so long was never having seen
anything from Dominik before, and a difficulty with both Westerns in
general and in taking Brad Pitt's acting seriously, although the allure
and the mystique of the Jesse James mythology was certainly enough of a
pull for me to eventually give this film a chance, and I was certainly
glad in retrospect that I had the courage to watch it. I cannot
overemphasize how great was the cast, the music, the direction, and the
cinematography. Specifically I would recommend the film to those who
like me would nary the thought of watching either a Western or a Brad
Pitt-featured film. More films have to be made, not of action and
special effects but, like TAOJJBTCRF, that get into the hearts, minds,
and souls--the humanity, if you will--of the people with the holsters,
guns and horses. Many kudos to Dominik, and I actively look forward to
seeing more of his work in future.
I really, really like Westerns. No Country For Old Men, so far my number one contender for picture of the year, is a sort of modern Western, and "The Assassination..." is not without its twist on the genre. I did expect a certain degree of action, and what I got was instead rewarding character development, a psychological introspection where the conflict is more internal than external.
I couldn't help compare this to Eastwood's Unforgiven, which deals with similar themes of hero worship and the myth. The Jesse James we see in this film is far from the iconic badass we'd expect him to be. He's a flawed legend, coming to the end of his life amidst paranoia and despair. Robert Ford, the man who aspires to be like his idol, is overcome with fantasies of celebrity status that become the catalyst for the tragedy that disintegrates the legend of Jesse James and his gang of bandits.
The studio allegedly wanted this to be more action-oriented, but Andrew Dominik, screenwriter and director, got his way with the focus heavily on a character-driven examination of the cult of celebrity.
Brad Pitt puts in a good performance, as do his gang of followers, but the Oscar really deserves to go to Casey for this one. The younger Affleck brother really comes into his own in this one, perfecting Ford as an impressionable and dangerously jealous young man.
The cinematography can be credited to Roger Deakins, who also assumed the same role with No Country For Old Men. Congratulations to the man for choosing two great projects, of course. Every frame is gorgeous: clouds flit through the sky; a train halts in a cloud of smoke in front of James' silhouette...I could go on, the amount of memorable shots is endless. Sometimes it can get quite tiresome, the amount of blurry airbrush effects on the edge of the screen gives a persistent impression of "look what I can do", but for the most part the cinematography is absolutely beautiful and along with the scope of the locales it serves the psychological base of the movie well.
The only fault I can really give to the film is its use of narration. I find it funny both me and Marcus brought this up as the only flaw. There's a voice-over at certain points of the movie, explaining to us some fill-in info and mental state of the characters. This talks down to us in a sense, for example it divulges details of James' increasingly suspicious feelings towards Ford when we could have just as easily have gathered this from the expressions of each person, with all credit to how effective they were. I guess for that reason I've knocked half of a star off the perfect five; I feel it's a shame that a film that communicates so effectively the cold, tragic tone of its theme with Grade A cinematography and acting had to tack on some harmful voice-over narrative.
If anyone is (actually reading this and) starting to think I'm giving out too many high scores for films, take note that I've only given 4.5s/5s to five films this end of the year: Atonement, Control, Ratatouille, No Country For Old Men, Jesse James. They're all fully deserved of those scores, and they're all going to feature in my Top 10 of the year.
Seriously though, I highly recommend you see this film as soon as possible, while it's on the big screen preferably, to benefit from the gorgeous visuals and see why it deserves Oscar buzz. I'm not even going to mention the runtime because anyone that thinks that's a problem is a pretty much a dumbass, especially for a film like this that requires extensive examination of its subject. It's the heavy focus on introspection and not action that took me by surprise, left an impression and placed this among my top films of the year. Go see it~!