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…
"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…
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…
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,…
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…
Terriblement ennuyeux. Que fait Brad Pitt ici ?
‘Over there in Europe there’s only two Americans they know for certain… Mark Twain and Jesse James.’
Some will say it’s too long for a western and too slow where nothing really happens. Partially its true, but you should know it not the classic showdown at noon type of western, it’s more like a biographical one. We got this fellow named Jesse James who is considered the biggest bandit that USA has ever seen. He is fighting his own (inner) war and deals with trust issues either. Brad Pitt is really making some kind of miracle here, I believe he is capable play different kind of roles, he proved that several times (12 monkey, Snatch, Fury, The Tree of Life…
Beautiful morbid paranoid movie with a dark tone.
It is a long movie thats justified and the actors play their parts well.
For me this is the best western ive seen. This movie is poetic almost dreamlike in the way its filmed and the score is great.
Hard to stay interested on a second watch, but this film really is pretty to look at
Andrew Dominik achieved something amazing in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The portrait of the bizarre relationship between the legendary outlaw (Brad Pitt) and his eventual assassin (Casey Affleck) is a fascinating one. There's intrigue among the James gang. There's enough betrayal and double-crossing to be a Greek tragedy. There's strange homoerotic undertones between the two titular men. Ultimately, the film is profoundly affecting, in all of its fascinating, disturbing, poetic glory.
As Jesse James, Brad Pitt plays this unhinged angel of death with alarming volcanism. He dominates every frame he's in and lives up to the urban legend and historical figure in every facet possible. The real star, however, unquestionably, is Casey Affleck. Affleck's…
If anything, I really learned a little bit of history from this film. A little slow but I could appreciate it. Brad Pitt is a such a boss.
A fabulous period piece film. Visually stunning, with a very engaging story. The acting is also exceptional. Heck, I was even educated a bit. My question is, why do filmmakers want to drag everything out so much? I can watch a long film with the best of them. However, there are very few where the time put in is justified. The beginning and especially the last 45 minutes of this film were wonderful. The middle could have used a little more editing.
Bottom line of my rating is:
At 160 minutes this rates a 4 star.
At 110 minutes it's a 5 star.
Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!
1. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007) by Paul Thomas Anderson
IMDb: 8.1 | RT: 91% || Points: 2110 | Peak:…