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,…
The performances and characters were probably the best part of the film, but the direction keeps the 150 minute film interesting. But the film feels too slow to keep investment from me at least. A good watch!
I'm too tipsy and this was too slow. My dad said he couldn't read the Lord of The Rings because it was retrospective, so he already knew that the characters lived. the title of this told me everything I needed to know! it's a spoiler straight out and I hate that. the dialogue (especially the voiceover) was really lovely but it didn't quite *grab* me...
but I JUST noticed Chris Evans in the credits as a minor part? is that the Chris Evans????
"He also had a condition that was referred to as "granulated eyelids" and it caused him to blink more than usual as if he found creation slightly more than he could accept."
I'm speechless. An awesome piece of art.
Beautifully shot, wonderfully melancholy. Affleck is oh so good. I'm intrigued by the idea of a four hour cut.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford can be considered 'pure cinema', in the way that it feels this experience could not be replicated through another medium. So much of the film is reliant on the craft of filmmaking; the longing empty shots of wilderness, the carefully arranged performances and one of the best scores in recent memory thanks to Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck act as the eponymous leads and both do career best work, honestly Brad Pitt has never been better, and while the film is occasionally dawdling and spinning off into unimportant diversions there is always a something in the scenes to be engaged by; whether it be beautiful…
#44 in my collection rewatch.
My comment on this film:
"All around, an absolutely stunningly, astonishingly beautifully composed film in every way. Every aspect of it demonstrates the best work of all those who worked on it. The cinematography is undoubtedly Deakins' most gorgeous, Pitt and Affleck manage to stand out even amongst a crowd of shockingly great performances, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' score accents the images perfectly. Simply, in truth, a historical drama that brings its characters to life once again."
I adore the first 45 minutes of this film, and I like the last half hour almost as much. It's gorgeouslt shot, and Dominik strikes a fantastic balance between the usual history-as-legend presentation of the western, and a casual, dirty realism. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is supposed to be about this ambivalence, but I think this film is the only one that's managed to put it on screen.
That said, it does meander in the middle quite a bit with a strange preoccupation with Dick Liddil derailing the story for far too long.
A good example of a film where narration works.
With a slow narrative, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford proposes us an biography melancholic of Wild West our Old West about a well-known out-of-law: Jesse James, famous for train robbery and murder.
Those waiting for a Western as some of Clint Eastwood with several shootings and blood, be disappointed. The film has the focus to present us the features and psychological of your characters (which to remember the Foxcatcher underestimated), mainly Jesse James and Robert Ford clear. The film has a long duration, but very worth it! In addition to its slow pace, it has an incredible soundtrack, a beautiful picture with a few moments "blinding" and outside the fine performances mainly from Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck.
Every film that has ever been nominated for an Academy Award in any category. Enjoy!