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Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
Ford, is a deliberately paced, stunningly visualized, and emotionally
charged exploration of the early development of mass media celebrity in
America. The film riveted my attention for two hours and 40 minutes,
and has remained on my mind for several days after my viewing. Although
centered on one of the iconic legends of the Old West, it is far beyond
an updated reincarnation of the Western. It is an epic allegory about
the development of the American cult of celebrity and the effects of
this obsession on the individuals caught in its web.
Visually, the film soars beyond anything that has hit the screen since Conrad Hall's final masterpiece with Road to Perdition. Roger Deakins, the cinematography genius behind The Shawshank Redemption, Kundun, and all the Cohen brothers" films since The Hudsucker Proxy, surpasses his best work. He pulls out all the stops hereintricately orchestrated changes in focus, richly textured colors, dazzling use of light sources, careful manipulations of time, powerfully significant fade-ins and fade-outs, and shots through rain, snow, and rippled old glassto communicate the story. Deakins' contribution stands out in the railroad train robbery sequence at the beginning of the film. Clearly defined, flickering light sources and deep black shadows create a dazzling, nightmarish vision that haunts the rest of the film. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission.
The richly textured, historically precise visual aspects of the film bring to mind Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven and Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller. However, instead of the understated, "realistic" performances featured in those films, The Assassination of Jesse James showcases powerful, yet still realistic performances by an outstanding ensemble cast.
Sam Rockwell, as the not-too-bright but well-meaning Charley Ford, and Mary-Louise Parker, as Jesse's loving wife, stand out. Yet the film belongs to the two titular leads, both of whom deliver the performances of their careers and create characters filled with disturbing contradictions. Brad Pitt's Jesse James is alternately pitiable and terrifyingan affectionate, loving father, an old-before-his-time sage, an adventurous daredevil, an unrepentant bad boy, and a vicious sociopath. Casey Affleck's Robin Ford is a complex, repellent, and tragic character who challenges the audience's complicity in the undercurrents of the film.
All in all, this is a great filmnot for those seeking the simple pleasures of instant gratification. But definitely worth the attention of those who still believe that movies are an art form.
If you have watched the trailer and know this movie is two hours and
forty minutes long you know what you are getting into and should not be
disappointed. This movie delivers on every level of film making, be it
cinematography, acting, or writing. Casey Affleck delivers a fantastic
performance in how he portrays Robert Ford as the bright eyed fawning
kid in a way so sincere it makes the audience uncomfortable even when
it shouldn't. Brad Pitt underplays his part as Jesse James hitting all
the right notes while never saying much. Exactly the way one would
expect an outlaw to act when they have everything in the world to hide.
I can't say the movie didn't FEEL two hours and forty minutes long but
I never wanted it to end sooner than it did. I guess I just enjoyed the
time I got to spend watching these characters for the full running
I loved this movie. Unfortunately, a long western without action is something seemingly impossible to sell to the public these days. It would be to the advantage of the studio to sell this like The English Patient was sold 10 years ago. Just make people feel like ignorant idiots if they don't like it! As much as it pains me to say it, I think most people don't care enough to bother seeing what makes this movie so great. The only other option to make this a success is to fool them into THINKING they love the movie. I'm really curious how many folks out there that like the movie agree with me here.
I've been thinking of a good way to start my review, I've been
pondering many opening sentences, but none of them are close enough to
the point, so I've decided to just say that this film is perfect in all
aspects. When the credits started to roll I didn't move at all, I sat
staring at the screen just thinking about what I just watched. I was
trying to understand if what I just saw was really that good, or if I
was just thinking it was. The film runs at almost three hours, but
never looses your attention for one second. It moves forward through
dialog that is poetic, but increasingly haunting at times.
First off, the performances. Brad Pitt as Jesse Jame makes you feel that he is a vulnerable person, and then at the next second he'll make you completely change all your feelings for him. He doesn't talk much in the film, but is none the less flawless. Casey Affleck as Robert Ford is in his best performance ever, makes you hate him. His character is very shaky, very nervous at times, but always seems confident of what he's doing, whether it's right of wrong. He steals most of the scenes he's in. The biggest surprise however for me was Sam Rockwell as Charley Ford, Robert's brother and Jesse's right hand man. At the beginning of the film, you think that Charley is the stupid brother and that Robert is intelligent beyond any standard Charley could reach. At the end of the film though, the roles switch. You realize that Robert has been making all the dumb decisions, and Charley has been trying to save him by covering them up and usually taking all the crap for it. His last scene was intense and beautiful. One other performance to talk about is Paul Schneider as Dick Liddil, an outlaw womanizer. His performance is somewhat comedic, but in some scenes he can be the backbone for the drama. I can easily see Pitt getting a Best Actor nomination while Affleck pulls in the Supporting Actor for the win.
The musical score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is on par with Clint Mansell's classic Requiem for a Dream score, if not better. In the films most horrific scenes, the music turns them into something beautiful. You'll want to sit through the end credits just to hear it one more time. The music will draw you back to the film to see it again. The score also fits the tone for the most of the scenes.
Andrew Dominik's direction is perfect. He uses the camera in such a unique way that you never miss anything that happens. In one of the film's best scenes, he places the camera so that you can only see Pitt's silhouette become meshed into a train's smoke and then reappear seconds later as it pops out. Dominik also wrote the entire script by himself, which really shows how versatile he is. He originally wrote the film into a 3hr and 50min cut that the studio made him trash. I can't wait to see that cut.
The best thing in the film though, is Roger Deakins' cinematography. That is what you gives the feel for the film. The blurry landscapes, the wheat fields that Pitt gracefully moves through, and the greatest train robbery scene ever on film. It perfectly portrays the landscapes of the old 1800's and everything that took place there. The film is consistent with providing one memorable scene after the other. When the assassination finally happens, you'll be sitting in your chair gawking at the screen in amazement of how sudden it happens.
I am very proud to say that this is now my favorite film of all time, and my definite choice for Best Picture of the year. It brings new flavor to the art-house scene and never lets you down. I recommend this film to everyone. It truly is a beautiful film.
I give it a 10 out of 10
From writer/director Andrew Dominik comes the long titled and lengthy
timed The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
starring Academy Award nominee Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck. The film in
so much of its glory has both positive and negative components that
make this an uneasy experience at the movies.
Director Dominik has great control of the picture but when the film went into the editing room the film underwent some problems. The film never keeps the momentum to be an amazing picture. The viewer is connected for the first 15 minutes, then bored for 10, then enchanted for 45, bored for 15, then comes the anticipated climax and you think its over, then it goes on for another half hour. Dominik gives the audience the best understanding of Jesse James possible so we can become better acquainted with him but brings in an slew of different characters that, to be perfectly honest, I don't care that much about. I believe this might be a example of over character development where we get all the aspects of his life but all we want is Jesse.
Last year, many critics were stating Brad Pitt gave his best performance ever in Babel however, his Jesse James is the best performance of his career by a mile. Pitt wears Jesse like an overgrown coat that you don't want to get rid of. Pitt gives the most tortured, endearing, and frightening performance of the year thus far. He makes the audience so uncomfortable and awkward yet gives off sensitivity and compassion for a very unlikable and ferocious man. If buzz builds, expect Pitt to be a huge contender at the Oscars.
Casey Affleck, arguably the better actor of the Affleck clan gives the most pathetic, annoying and cowardly performance in the last ten years; and its brilliant. With his deep "admiration" for Jesse, his Robert Ford is engulfed in Jesse's presence and wants enjoy the moments with him, even if he is in fear of him. The finale is truly his show as he stretches out his acting legs and dissolves into a character you can't wait to see off-screen.
The cast ensemble is a true revelation as each character as over-developed as they might be, all bring a sense of humanity, charisma, and heartbreak to their roles. Sam Rockwell who is on the verge of being a household name and coming his way to a nomination one day plays Charley Ford, brother of Robert, as magnetic as the character demands. Mary Louise Parker, who is one of the better actress' working today, goes nowhere as Jesse's wife. This is a role that is very Academy friendly, and throws it away in a her limited screen time Sam Shepard who plays the older brother of Jesse, shows fear and anguish built up in a man who yearns for emotional freedom from crime. Paul Schneider, Jeremy Renner and Garret Dillahunt all turn in exceptional performances and enhance a cast of big name stars. Expect a possible Screen Actors Cast Ensemble nod for these men.
Expect a possible and much deserved cinematography nomination for the overdue Roger Deakins, which is the strongest technical aspect of the picture. Also a great score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is a possibility along with great costumes by Patricia Norris and perfect art direction by Janice Blackey-Goodine. The appeal is there for the film as a whole but it leaves us floating a little too often in a long river of bravery, artistry and commendation. Dominik will likely be cited for some breakthrough director awards with the picture popping up during precursors' season.
Get ready for the assassination everyone knows is coming but no one can prepare for. Never has been a film that tells you the entire story in the title and can still surprise the viewer with beautiful cinematic moments.
This movie was quite simply AMAZING! Oscar worthy performances from
Affleck, Pitt, and Rockwell-Oscar worthy cinematography-Oscar worthy
directing. Hate me if you want, but the pacing was perfect. I was glued
to my seat. The best part about this movie is that it could have easily
been a set up for failure given how slow the story is, but the tension
created by each actors performance left me wanting more. The last thing
the world "needs" is another typical, gun slinging western. This is by
far the best movie I've seen all year.
P.S. for any little Ben Affleck fans... I just have one thing to say, his brother just made him look like a joke.
Wow, does this film have style or what? The Assassination of Jesse
Jamed by the Coward Robert Ford, is one of the longest titles I've ever
seen for a film and the movie's run-time follows the same pattern. I
have no problem with this. I would sit through a ten hour "Jesse James"
because of the excellent tone given out by director Andrew Dominik. The
frozen Missouri/ Kansas landscapes are a treat for the eyes. The
musical score does its job: to blend into the film so subtly that I
cant imagine the images on the screen without it. The narration neither
detracts or adds to the tone, although there is one bit of bad editing
that confused my friend as to whether the narrator was speaking or a
man's voice had been dubbed poorly.
"Jesse James" delves deep into the inner conflicts and emotions of every character. We live with them, eat with them, and often feel their pain or their confusion. This confusion is often associated with the bi-polar nature of the film's central character, Jesse James, played by none other than Brad Pitt. Casey Affleck delivers a subtle performance here that actually becomes the most effective as the film progresses over its 160 minute running time. I hated Robert Ford for a good portion of the film, thought he was so annoying and clingy that it was a wonder Jesse James didn't kill him within the first day of their complex relationship. But then, as I sat through the so called "gruelling" running time of the film, I learned to feel for him and understand his motives and attraction for Jesse. But ultimately, his childhood, comic book worship of the famous outlaw changes.
The "style" of the film is evident in the first frame of passing clouds. Roger Deacon's cinematography is the best I've seen since Conrad Hall's work in Road to Perdition, perhaps better. He is definitely winning the Oscar this year, between this and No Country For Old Men. There is a scene involving a train robbery where the visuals and utter style blew me away. The lighting and camera direction becomes more subtle and less noticeable after the train scene, but, does not lessen in quality and pure artistry. There is a topic on the IMDb message boards approaching the topic of whether certain films should be labeled "art films." Well all films are works of art, some are horrendous, some are extraordinary. Well, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is an extraordinary work of art.
Though Jesse James through the newspaper accounts of his exploits and
through the dime novels of the day was already a legend, his
immortality was sealed on April 3, 1882 by the manner of his death. The
lengthy title of the film tells all or at least the official version of
But was that accepted version the real story? For the first time the Ford brothers, Robert and Charley, get their due. As played by Casey Affleck, Robert Ford was a most complex character indeed. Ford is shown for what he was, a moonstruck kid who was brought up on those dime novels and idolized the legendary bandit. The fact that Charley was already riding with the James gang got him into the group.
After the last job the James gang pulled and the only Ford was ever in on, the Fords kind of attached themselves to Jesse James. Of course the idol is no hero. Brad Pitt plays a most unheroic Jesse.
Hints of Pitt's interpretation of Jesse's character are found in the classic portrayal of Jesse James by Tyrone Power. Remember when the laconic Henry Fonda as Frank James dresses Jesse down, tells him he's getting mean, meaner every day even with some of his own gang members? Power was showing signs of it, but we see Pitt as Jesse do some really brutal and cruel things. At the same time he's a loving husband to Mary Louise Parker and doting father to his two children.
As good as Pitt is I think the acting honors go to Casey Affleck. His gradual disillusion with his idol is really something to see on the screen. He becomes really scared of Pitt for reasons I won't reveal, but were definitely sufficient to want him to get Pitt.
We also get to see the Fords sorry aftermath. Things did not go so well for them. Bob Ford did not quite get the acclaim he would have liked as Jesse James became bigger after death than in life.
Frank James as played briefly in the beginning is an odd peripheral character in this film. The James brothers did separate some months before Jesse's death. Frank is played by Sam Shepard who has an encounter with young Bob Ford at the beginning of the film and announces to one and all, the kid creeps him out. But Jesse likes having the kid follow him around like a puppy dog to his ultimate regret.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a very good western and we sure don't see too many of them in these times. It's shot in an unusual color, almost like one of those sepia-tone films that were in vogue for a brief spell. The location shooting was done in western Canada and looks a whole lot more like Missouri then than Missouri does now.
This almost defines the oft-used term "elegiac Western". It has some of the well-worn themes of Westerns, such as the creation of Western myth vs. the cold, harsh realities. But for some reason, it never feels like anything else I've ever seen. It has a style more reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni than any of the great Western filmmakers. It's slow and likes to surround its characters with enormous landscapes that almost swallow them whole. But it's also not averse to close-ups. Director Dominik, who has only made one other film, Chopper, and it's been seven years since then, loves to concentrate on facial expressions, as well as body language (don't know if I've ever seen a film with this level of attention to body language, or maybe it's just not something to which I've ever been lead to pay much attention). The cast is uniformly brilliant. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck are the titular leads, and neither has done as well. Affleck is a revelation. The supporting cast includes Sam Rockwell, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeremy Renner, Garrett Dillahunt and Paul Schneider. Andrew Dominik is the star, though. There have been plenty of successful Westerns over the past couple of decades, but I'd be hard-pressed to name a single one out that so beautifully and completely re-invents the genre. 3:10 to Yuma may well be the big money-making Western of the year, but I think history will recall it as being the year that The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was released. It is the best film of the year so far, and will be hard to top.
Casey Affleck's has officially come into his own. Fantastic
Brad Pitt's performance complex and stunning as usual. Brad does not shy away from the real roles and proves time and time again what a brilliant actor he is.
Roger Deakins shots are stunning, capturing the true beauty that lies within the Canadian rockies. The artistic shots through the old style glass is fantastic.
Score is very unorthodox yet amazingly effective.
The only downside to the film many say is the running time, but I admire that Andrew allowed for the performances of the actors to be the showcase. Many scenes with not a lot of background music, just the intense performances.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I have to admit, looking at some of the other comments here I'm not
sure if I and other reviewers saw the same movie. I want the
mind-dulling 2:40 of my life back.
Moreso than even your average Hollywood movie, this picture is overlong. Sufficiently overlong, in fact, that it makes the overblown title seem succinct in comparison; it has one of the lowest plot-to-movie-runtime ratios I have ever encountered in cinema. (And at least a film like, say, Koyaanisqatsi, does not pretend to involve plot but is more honestly a painting in motion rather than a photoplay.) I did not come into this movie expecting a typical, shoot-em-up Western. But at the same time, some hint of charisma in the portrayal of Jesse James, some hint or shadow of how one of the most famous outlaws in American history *became* famous and even revered, would have been appropriate here. This movie relies on *telling* us Jesse James is revered and having a simpering Robert Ford hanging at his heels for most of the picture like a spineless puppy dog. There is very little in the character himself to suggest even past greatness or charisma. Russell Crowe's Ben Wade in "3:10 to Yuma" illustrates -- even, and especially outside of the actual shoot-em-up scenes -- the kind of charisma, the personal presence, force of personality, what have you, that make his gang fanatically loyal to him. There is essentially no trace of this from Brad Pitt's Jesse James. If the viewer's knowledge of history and the film's many narrative assurances weren't constantly reminding us that Jesse James was a Very Great Man, you certainly wouldn't guess it from the portrayal of the character here.
As for the portrayal of Robert Ford, it is overly kind to call the performance nuanced or low-key; it is so low-key that there might as well not even be any music. The character is weak, dull, uninteresting, and shows very little actual development. Essentially, he goes from being a lightly-regarded lightweight who retreats into his Jesse James fantasies to a lightly-regarded lightweight who is spurned by the object of his fantasies to a self-puffed up caricature of himself, cashing in on his notoriety (or rather, as the film might have us believe, the notoriety of Jesse James) before someone finally, mercifully ends his "story" and thus the movie.
As for the other characters in this film, they are sufficiently even more forgettable that I have literally forgotten them. Large stretches of film yawn, devoid of anything happening, great empty spaces more forsaken than the Western landscapes the cinematography so lovingly dwells upon. Main characters disappear from the screen for long periods of time, and their return is heralded by a lethargic second helping of yet-increased tedium.
It is true that some of the landscapes and cinematography are quite beautiful -- however, for around the price of an average movie ticket these days, one can instead go to the local chain bookstore and obtain a coffee-table picture book of lovely Western landscapes and/or national parks from the bargain bin. I would have greater respect for the camera-work and locations if they were either the backdrop for an interesting story, or the centerpiece of a more documentary work in which the open spaces themselves starred. This movie is neither -- in fact, the lingering shots seem to exist primarily to pad, both the movie's already-bloated runtime and the equally bloated and self-satisfied egos behind the excretion of this allegedly artistic work.
In the end, to me, a movie may involve skillful work or some measure of importance beyond the creators' self-importance, but if it fails to somehow intrigue me or draw me in or, perhaps above all, entertain me on some level, then I judge it to be a failure. By this standard, this picture is an utter failure. It bored me with almost perfect uniformity from beginning to the end to such a degree that the only dramatic tension I experienced was whether I would literally fall asleep in the theater from sheer tedium or simply walk out of the theater in pure disgust at wasted time and money. Sadly, I did neither.
In retrospect, I would rather have had three hours of my life painlessly and instantly excised from my lifespan than have my memories polluted with the remembrance of what is easily one of the most dull and flat-out worst movies I have personally experienced.
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