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

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

Directed by: Andrew Dominik

Premise: The true story of Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), who joined the gang of Jesse James (Brad Pitt) but turned on the famous outlaw. 

What Works: The Assassination of Jesse James is a gorgeous looking film. The subjects are framed exquisitely and a lot of critical shots, like those in the assassination scene, are composed to look like nineteenth century photography. The dialogue of the film is also written very well with lots of character embedded in the language. The acting in the film is superb, namely by Brad Pitt as Jesse James. Like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, Pitt brings a weariness to the role and humanizes a legend. The lead role of the film belongs to Casey Affleck as Robert Ford. The story focuses on Ford’s idol worship of James and how his obsession turns destructive. The slide is well staged and credible and Affleck’s performance has quite a bit to do with that. Ford is actually a loser of a character, very whinny and pathetic, but Affleck is able to make him sympathetic and that is an amazing turn.

What Doesn’t: The film is just too long. A lot of time passes between anything happening in the plot. The pacing of the film is off in places, and overall The Assassination of Jesse James could use some tightening. There is a brilliant film here, but it is overshadowed by too much extraneous material.

Bottom Line: There is so much done right in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, including the acting, the cinematography, and the writing, that the film is worth the viewer’s time, even though it will take a lot of it. The film will be enjoyed by those who can appreciate the pictures of Terrence Malick.

Episode: #N/A (December 9, 2007)