I can assure JI Robertson that I really do think this is a superb film: because 40 people walked out of the cinema he was in is as irrelevant to proving its weakness as the number of bums on seats at, say the Phantom Menace 'proving' that that was a good film.
It is not an action film; it is slow; it is primarily a character piece and therefore works against expectations of Westerns, but that doesn't mean it's not a great one. It actually addresses a central theme of the genre, one that has been explored in various ways for years, that of the clash between celebrity reputation and reality. Pitt's Jesse is capricious, brutal, unstable, murderous, disturbed. Ford's disappointed idolatry and a desire for some celebrity status of his own through killing him after his 'hero' rebuffs and insults him, is doomed. Ford is vilified by those who prefer the mythology about the outlaw. And there is certainly no pretence that Ford kills James as an expression of justice.
The performances of Pitt and Affleck are superb, particularly the latter's depiction of craven idolisation curdling into resentment, envy and desire for esteem, if not his hero's, then the public's, which, they determinedly refuse to give. The soundtrack is wonderful and the cinematography, by Roger Deakins who also DP'd No Country For Old Men, is broodingly beautiful. This really lingers in the memory. It amazes me that we can see all sorts of mediocrity replicated in hundreds of cinemas, but it's so hard to find this gem. Saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago and desperate to see it again, but where?