Recently, I've become aware that certain films are able to transcend the medium by being completely self-assured in their atmospheres…
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Beyond the myth lies America's greatest betrayal
Everyone in 1880's America knows Jesse James. He's the nation's most notorious criminal, hunted by the law in 10 states. He's also the land's greatest hero, lauded as a Robin Hood by the public. Robert Ford? No one knows him. Not yet. But the ambitious 19-year-old aims to change that. He'll befriend Jesse, ride with his gang. And if that doesn't bring Ford fame, he'll find a deadlier way.
This is my first viewing since the film’s original release back in 2007 and I feel incredibly foolish for not having re-watched it sooner.
Quite simply The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a work of staggering brilliance and arguably the finest Western of the last twenty years. It is a film that exists on the border of two worlds - on one side it mythologizes the transitionary period of American history via the fable-building narration and dreamy photography, and on the other it slowly and methodically demystifies the characters that populate it and the falsehood of celebrity. It is this contradiction that is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the film and mirrors the inner-conflict…
Dominik's best film.
Pitt's best performance.
Deakins' best work.
Affleck's perfect performance. That is not an exaggeration. Perfection is the only word for what he achieves here.
Made me forget, again, that I really don't like the western genre.
”…Rooms seemed hotter when he was in them. Rains fell straighter. Clocks slowed. Sounds were amplified…”
Okay, we know what’s going to happen, we know that a coward and weak character, named Robert Ford is going to kill the famous wild west outlaw Jesse James, we know who is who before even watching the film, Andrew Dominik’s audacious masterpiece has nothing to surprise, we know that there’s not going to be a twist, there’s not going to be a WTF moment, everything that we’re going to see is compressed in the title, that’s all.
So this film is not going to be about what’s going to happen…
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a total afterthought in my film universe for years. The title was memorable for me simply because of it's length, but it carried no real resonance with me besides that. My expectations for the film were so low that, to be honest, when I read extremely positive reviews on Letterboxd I had trouble buying into it. How could a film mean so little to me, a film that sat so far off my radar that it practically didn't exist, yet be this good?
I looked up the director, found the name Andrew Dominik. Who? A name that meant absolutely nothing to me, a tiny filmography of three films associated…
"He's just a human being."
#5 on Berken's Favorite Movies Of All Time
In retrospect, it makes perfect sense how much I loved The Assassination Of Jesse James, given how Andrew Dominik here assimilates the strengths of my three favorite modern filmmakers and repurposes them into a new and potent concoction:
1. The slow-burning cynical character studies, thematic purpose, and powerful, naturalistic performances of Paul Thomas Anderson.
2. The stylized period dialogue and shocking outbursts of violence of the Coen brothers, not to mention the brilliant eye of their famed collaborator, cinematographer Roger Deakins.
3. The thoughtful, elegiac tone and elegant, repeated musical leitmotifs of Wong Kar-Wai, especially In The Mood For Love.
Granted, Dominik can't quite match Wong's skill…
What a breathtaking gorgeous picture The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is. Unbound beauty. We are all aware by now of the director of photography, the master Roger Deakins, who has proved his astute sense of vista and marvelous photography, not only with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, but on many other occasions as well. I could watch a three hour movie of sunlight inundating empty rooms, people walking around corn fields with the wind whistling by or riding through snowy forests all the time. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is not just a movie, it's a moving painting bro. Hear me out!
As I said,…
This movie was really good! I occasionally thought it was going too slow, but the second I tried to switch on my browser to look at Facebook or whatever, I was back in a few seconds. It's just tense and languorous, and makes you watch it on it's own terms, which probably annoyed some people, but I couldn't stop thinking about it after it was done (3 hours later). Also Casey Affleck probably should have been allowed to be in another movie after this, but I guess not.
Casey Affleck's movie game is in fleek. His aesthetic and timid nature throughout the film makes me want to see so much more of his work. Brad Pitt was incredibly and completely far from his actual self, which also makes me want to watch more of his films too.
I'm sick, I'm tired, my head hurts, but that doesn't matter. That'll all go away soon. I apologize for the muddled writing.
"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (a title which I will never say again throughout the rest of this review) is a Western which both operates squarely within the world of sparse chaos that exists in the Wild West and a deconstruction of the attitudes surrounding the angered wistfulness. Furthermore, all of this is communicated through the environment, feeling, characters, atmosphere, and dialogue. The film is structured so that it feels as though it has no structure, yet every scene in retrospect is both flawlessly executed and entirely necessary. The film feels aimless yet…
NEVER fails in making me quietly weep to myself.
I’m sorry Oscars, but how exactly is Casey Affleck a supporting actor in this? Because his characters’ name appears second in the title? So, first things first: I love Brad Pitt. Not in this movie per se, but he’s just amongst my three favourite actors of the past few decades. That being said, I must recognise how great Affleck is in this. Jesse James is an charismatic anti-hero and thus an easy-to-like-hard-to-hate persona; Robert Ford, on the other hand, takes real skill to be portrayed as an interesting fellow, which Affleck succeeds in doing the very first seconds he enters the screen. For a slow-burn western of over two and a half hours that is called boring even amongst circles…
This is my all time favorite film. I watch it once a month and always enjoy the cinematography. Roger Deakins shot this film, he is one of my favorite cinematographers. The shots are amazing, the acting is great. I love the music in the film. The lighting is my favorite, especially in the train robbery scene.
A long title and an even longer running time always put me off watching this film.
Well, I shouldn't have judged it so superficially because this a great piece of film-making. Roger Deakins has done a wonderful job, as per usual, making me feel as if I were visually piecing the narrative together from half-remembered images and tattered old photographs. The train robbery near the start of the film is a particularly striking scence, wonderfully lit and very atmospheric. Despite the daunting running time, few, if any, scenes feel unnecessary in progressing the themes and the narrative.
Brad Pitt puts in a very competent performance, but Casey Affleck steals the show and hammers home the point, that this is the story of Robert Ford, not Jesse James.
It must have been a bold choice to take a western, the familiar setting, a character of a legendary status and turn it into a story where nothing really happens... and to make it work.
This film has as much to do with traditional westerns as, say, "No country for old men" does, which by the way came out in the same year and was also shot by Roger Deakins (he was nominated for the Oscars for both of them and as usual won nothing). The only thing that makes it a western is really the period setting, but other than that this film is a slow-burning psychological drama about duty, betrayal and consequences. With sparse dialogue, subdued performances and really beautiful natural cinematography "The assassination of Jesse James" really elevates itself and becomes a Malickian mood piece.
Assassins are a special breed of human being ... parasites who believe that someone's death somehow justifies or elevates their own lives. In this case, the 1880s assassin is Robert Ford (Casey Affleck), a low life who idolizes the outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) and somehow believes himself to be his peer.
Nineteen-year-old Ford manages to join the James gang just before their final train robbery in Missouri, using his more experienced brother Charley (Sam Rockwell) as his connection. The gang's leader Frank James (Sam Shepard) has no use for the kid, but Jesse is "gregarious" and invites him along.
After the robbery, the gang splits up, with Frank heading back east to Baltimore and Jesse joining his wife Zee…
Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!