Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The

Like the title this adaptation of Jesse James is a looong slow journey through the later years of his life. More interesting, its also a journey into a character we've heard little about...Robert Ford.

The film is a western drama surrounding the private life and public exploits of America's most notorious outlaw, Jesse James. As the charismatic and unpredictable outlaw plans his next great robbery, he wages war on his old gang who are trying to collect the reward money--and the glory--that is riding on his capture. However, the greatest threat to Jesse's life may ultimately come from those who look up to him the most.

The movie reminds me a lot of a better Terrence Malick flic. The movie's cinematography and narrative translates more like a poem than a film. Its beauty captures the essence of a different time and a different world.

Our boy Casey comes through with yet another amazing performance. At least two in one year, not a bad climb from out his brothers ugly PR shadow.

Pitt's best moments are not when he speaks nor when he acts but more of when he just IS. His walk, his lean, his stare, all of these speak to me louder than any of his edgy lyrics. There is no doubt that Pitt carries the swag of our favorite outlaw.

The score and three specific moments made this film for me. The music haunts the scenes like a lullaby with its sad caressing melody.
One of my favorite moments is when Jesse James sits in his unkempt backyard in an old chair(pic below). His brother has just left the gang and his heart is broken. He opens up a box and pulls out two snakes that were captured for dinner. He holds the two snakes together in his right hand watching them ballet up his arm. He then in one swoop lops their heads off just watching their bodies never stop dancing. The imagery and the camera were AWESOME. Look for it in the trailer.

The thing that makes this movie stand out amongst the other hordes of James brother westerns or just westerns in general is the care that was taken to make this feel slow and beautiful. The filmmaker truly wanted to take you there.
I was never bored nor did I ever look at my watch. I recommend to anyone with the patience for a long slow souther draw.
Reviewed by: shea
16 Comment(s)
Josh said...
This was definitely an interesting film. It does remind one of a Malick film, or even Kubrick. The best way I can describe it is that it feels exactly like reading a book. Take from that what you will.

The performances in this one were just amazing. Everybody involved brought their "A" game. Pitt definitely deserved a nomination for this one, because this has to be one of his best performances. If not his best. Casey Affleck was beyond amazing. The guy really has some skills. Between this and Gone Baby Gone, he's really proved himself.

I read on IMDB that the original cut was something like four hours. There's a part of me that felt the film was already a little long, but there's another part (the one that's sat through Cameron's four and half hour cut of The Abyss) that wants to see it in all its uncut glory. Hopefully someday they'll release it.
Troy said...
This is a beautiful movie, and is now one of my favorites. Definitely in my top 10. Sure it was 2.5 hours long, but it didn't over stay its' welcome. Everything from the camera shots to the score seems to have been given careful attention. The casting was spot on. I would give it a solid 4.5 stars since in my opinion nothing is perfect, and nothing should ever be given 5 stars (cough, cough Adam)
Andy said...
I only wish I could have been there to share this beautiful movie with you. It was one of my favorites from last year.
Troy said...
We can watch it together. I would love to watch this again. Maybe we can snuggle up on the couch, turn the lights out and hold each other tight. No hanky panky though.....I'm married. Although Heather does think we are secret lovers.
Troy T. said...
I haven't seen "No Country" yet, but Casey Affleck is freaking awesome in "Jesse James". I'm sure that guy with the weird haircut was good in NCFOM, but not sure if he deserved it over Mr. Affleck.
Troy T. said...
Awards are stupid anyway.
Shea said...
I agree... I think Casey did an amazing job and should have gotten the oscar. I think "weird hair cut" did great but still...
Very interesting to me that the word both my wife and I used to describe this movie is in the comments above... TWICE, as well as in the original review.

Beautiful.

this might have been the most beautiful film I've ever seen. I repeatedly found myself going "Oh don't move away from that shot yet" only to be followed by another epic frame that I wanted on my music room wall.

I was hesitant to try this out from the mixed reviews I heard of it, but between the cold, soft pictures in a dancing stream before my eyes and the near romantic half ball room, half duel of the two lead characters...

I loved this film.
Very interesting to me that the word both my wife and I used to describe this movie is in the comments above... TWICE, as well as in the original review.

Beautiful.

this might have been the most beautiful film I've ever seen. I repeatedly found myself going "Oh don't move away from that shot yet" only to be followed by another epic frame that I wanted on my music room wall.

I was hesitant to try this out from the mixed reviews I heard of it, but between the cold, soft pictures in a dancing stream before my eyes and the near romantic half ball room, half duel of the two lead characters...

I loved this film.
* (asterisk) (http://suchastheyare.blogspot.com) said...
First up, it was a very good film. I perhaps was expecting slightly too much and it did quite meet my hopes. I can't quite put my finger on why, but no matter.

BUT...

Not only was Affleck robbed of the Oscar...

he was also robbed of the recognition that his was absolutely the lead role. He should have been nominated for Best Lead.

He was excellent in it, and I'm glad he's finally come of age, acting-wise.
That is a great point. I would agree on Affleck being the lead. That's pretty interesting...
Paul said...
Well...I think I'm going to get my face ripped off for this one...

I loved this movie, great style and emotion. Love the very slow and deliberate Malick-esque shots. Visual poetry if you will.

I thought Casey was great, but I would have given it to Javier. I'll even go this far (holding onto my face)...I was much more interested in Pitt's character.

Casey was great, and the story was obviously told through his eyes, but I gotta say I enjoyed watching Pitt more. He was so dark and mysterious, borderline crazy, and the focus of Ford's obsession. He did such a great job giving life and depth to this character. Obviously each needed the other for this to work, I just found James more interesting. Not taking away from Casey's performance though, which was excellent, and I'm glad to see him get away from teaming up with Scott Caan (gag) in the Ocean's movies.

I would agree though that he was the lead in this picture. Do you think he would have beaten Lewis? As I have not watched There Will Be Blood yet.

Also, gotta give Sam Rockwell a nod, excellent job.
Shea said...
...is it ironic that the same guy who shot James shot No Country?

I like Casey more than Brad and think Casey should have beaten "bowl cut" but all mentioned performed amazing. It was the little things that made Casey stand out to me... Pitt was still Pitt, that same Tyler Durdan swag and laugh.

Rockwell was great indeed.

I think it is a toss up for Casey to be supporting or lead. Pitt was definitely the focus but Casey the vehicle. Interesting indeed.
Paul said...
That's the thing, I was expecting the same Tyler Durdan performance. But there was such a subtlety to his character that I enjoyed so much. There was more to him, we only saw glimpses of his character, but it was deliberate to keep the mystique. Thought he did a great job creating something new.
* (asterisk) said...
My 2c worth: I think if Affleck were to have been up against Lewis, he still would have lost. The difference being a great performance (Affleck) vs an acting masterclass (Lewis). In my never humble opinion.
Red said...
I thought Jesse James was by far the weakest link of the film. He was just a deranged psychopath, and when there's a psychopath in your midst... well, it's just a bit of a cop-out on the part of the writer/director to have extraordinary things happen in the film without having to provide any sound basis for them. A bit like putting Joe Pesci in Goodfellas.

I was much more interested in the relationship between the two brothers (and I agree, Sam Rockwell did an excellent job), and I could happily have spent more time with the dude who was reading poetry all the time.