The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford [DVD] 
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Having idolised Jesse James all through his young life, Robert Ford desperately tries to join the outlaw's gang, only to soon find himself getting resentful towards his hero...
Of all the movies made about or glancingly involving the 19th-century outlaw Jesse Woodson James, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is the most reflective, most ambitious, most intricately fascinating, and indisputably most beautiful. Based on the novel of the same name by Ron Hansen, it picks up James late in his career, a few hours before his final train robbery, then covers the slow catastrophe of the gang's breakup over the next seven months even as the boss himself settles into an approximation of genteel retirement. But in another sense all of the movie is later than that. The very title assumes the audience's familiarity with James as a figure out of history and legend, and our awareness that he was--will be--murdered in his parlor one quiet afternoon by a back-shooting crony.
The film--only the second to be made by New Zealandborn writer-director Andrew Dominik--reminds us that Dominik's debut film, Chopper, was the cunningly off-kilter portrait of another real-life criminal psychopath who became a kind of rock star to his society. The Jesse James of this telling is no Robin Hood robbing the rich to give to the poor, and that train robbery we witness is punctuated by acts of gratuitous brutality, not gallantry. Nineteen-year-old Bob Ford (Casey Affleck) seeks to join the James gang out of hero worship stoked by the dime novels he secretes under his bed, but his glam hero (Brad Pitt) is a monster who takes private glee in infecting his accomplices with his own paranoia, then murdering them for it. In the careful orchestration of James's final moments, there's even a hint that he takes satisfaction in his own demise. Affleck and Pitt (who co-produced with Ridley Scott, among others) are mesmerising in the title roles, but the movie is enriched by an exceptional supporting cast: Sam Shepard as Jesse's older, more stable brother Frank; Sam Rockwell as Bob Ford's own brother Charlie, whose post-assassination descent into madness is astonishing to behold; Paul Schneider, Garret Dillahunt, and Jeremy Renner as three variously doomed gang members; and Mary-Louise Parker, who as Jesse's wife Zee has few lines yet manages with looks and body language to invoke a well nigh-novelistic back-story for herself. There are also electrifying cameos by James Carville, doing solid actorly work as the governor of Missouri; Ted Levine, as a lawman of antic spirit; and Nick Cave, composer of the film's score (with Warren Ellis) and screenwriter of the Aussie western The Proposition, suddenly towering over a late scene to perform the folk song that set the terms for the book and movie's title.
Still, the real co-star is Roger Deakins, probably the finest cinematographer at work today. The landscapes of the movie (mostly in Alberta and Manitoba) will linger in the memory as long as the distinctive faces, and we seem to feel the sting of its snows on our cheeks. Interior scenes are equally persuasive. Few westerns have conveyed so tangibly the bleakness and austerity of the spaces people of the frontier called home, and sought in vain to warm with human spirit. --Richard T. Jameson
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Top Customer Reviews
Apart from the dreamy soundtrack it is the very strong acting that really hits you when you watch this. Casey Affleck's Robert Ford is just as masterful as Pitt's interpretation of Jesse James. Affleck is many things in his portrayal, creepy, sweet, pitiful, contemplative, stubborn and of course an obsessive. Pitt's performance too shifts and varies, from wildly sociable, to menacingly silent and confessional. At times Jesse is shown as a psychopath his eyes positively shining with evil or madness and at other times, he is totally charming. You almost don't notice the other supporting characters with Pitt and Affleck dominating affairs so much but they all compliment this artistic drama.
Jesse James is shown as one of the first ever celebrities, a relic of a more ferocious past known well beyond America by Europeans and proudly declaring that all of America holds him in high regard. Robert Ford is the crazed fan who stalks his idol relentlessly, his love and respect turning to jealousy and bitterness.Read more ›
The title does of course give way what is going to happen in this film but the real drama comes from the way the narrative explores the relationship between the two men and how circumstances dictate what fates befall both of them.
When we meet them both its September 1881 and they are both preparing to rob a train as part of the infamous James gang . Most of the gang we are informed by the films lyrical voice over ( Hugh Ross)are either dead or in prison but the two remaining James brothers Frank (Sam Shepard) and Jesse(Brad Pitt) are leading the heist. Also part of the gang are the Ford brothers Charley (Sam Rockwell) and Robert (Casey Affleck) Robert has a fan worship thing going on with Jesse and this marks the start of their bond , though not before the more worldly wise Frank says of Bob Ford "I don't know what it is about you, but the more you talk, the more you give me the willies."
It's a perspicacious comment as Bob is a bit creepy and is brilliantly portrayed by Affleck as such - ostensibly a sort of cowboy stalker. Jesse finds him amusing at first then comes to trust him before an all round paranoia and brooding malevolence takes over his character . These two borderline psycho's are well matched in many respects but the film adapted by director Andrew Dominick from the book by Robert Hansen takes its time in getting under the skin of these two characters so we understand implicitly how Ford comes to shooting Jesse James .Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Why so much "in the dark" and unclear diction? Fell asleep half way through.... Will try to endure to the end to find out what the hell is happening. PoorPublished 2 months ago by Lyn Jane Senior
Apologies in advance as this is not a 'true' review, I'd really love to review this, really. But I have an issue:
Backstory moment: The recent news from Amazon that you... Read more
Sorry but have to say this was very disappointing. I watched it till about half way hoping it would improve. Read morePublished 5 months ago by The Bean