The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2005-2007) R 160min
October 6th, 2007 by Maxim · 2 Comments · 5,819 Views
A western by Andrew Dominik. Shot in 2005 and after 2 years of editing, finally released in 2007. All locations and time line were meticulously reconstructed.
Jesse James (Brad Bitt) is a famous outlaw who committed multiple train and bank robberies with his brother Frank (Sam Shepard) and a bunch of low-lifes like Ford brothers (Casey Afflek and ). He recruited Bob, a 19-year old who was fascinated with Jesse’s figure since he was a little kid and read about him in dime novels. After the last train robbery, Frank James retired, and Jesse wanted to retire too with his family, but could not get rid of Bob, who, like a leach, was always around. Jesse despised him for being a coward, but also was flattered with Bob’s fascination with him. “Do you want to be like me or do you want to be me?”, he asked.
Slow with almost useless dialogs in the beginning but redeems itself in the second half with more action, drama and Brad Pitt’s best dramatic role.
All actors were great. Brad Pitt was playing Jesse James. The character of Jesse James itself, particularly his introspective analyzing look and his talent to read people had helped Pitt to play this role – he is a perfect match for this character. Just with his eyes he expresses so much emotion and thoughts, especially when he figures out that two Ford brothers are going to betray him sooner or later. Jesse could have killed them himself, but decided to be fatalist and just wait for them to kill him, but he did mess with them for a while. Both Casey Affleck who played Robert Ford and Sam Rockwell who played his brother Charley Ford were really good, particularly their expression of fear of Jesse James – they play fake emotions so realistically. Casey Affleck was so good portraying this 20-year old insecure and cowardly, but cunning man despised by everyone, made fun of and bullied, always scared unless he too has opportunity to bully (”woman, shut your face for once”), which makes him keep his emotions to himself and practically making a maniac out of him, which ultimately leads him to betrayal. The real drama is that Bob Ford had to kill a man and then create a theatrical play about this killing so he can become famous for killing a man, but as the result everyone despises him even more because they saw that he is nothing but a leach, a parasite, who killed an “American hero”, a celebrity, and had no scruples re-living the murder on the stage for some 800 times. His tretury even pushed his own brother to commit suicide. Another shocking moment was parading Jesse’s body for profit. Is that the beginning of “American culture”, or cult, of celebrity?
When Jesse contemplates suicide, there was mention of his “inner demons” or depression, but not quite explained why he was depressed. Was it because the South lost the war? Was it something he did during the war? Was he depressed because he could not be a family man and had to be Jesse-the-fugitive?
One of the best things about this movie is sound. From the first scene I loved the sound of the forest and sound of the approaching train, or when Jesse and Ford brothers are in the room and all you hear is voices and breath, or when guns are drawn there’s a second of very suspenseful seconds before we hear the gun shot.
I hate when movies are narrated (unless it’s done by Morgan Freeman).
I did not like photography, particularly the blur effect off the center of the composition. The light in the indoor scenes was also very unnatural and unrealistic. The whether was almost intentionally miserable to create atmosphere of depression. The costumes, at least in the first half of the movie, were over the top, almost grotesque.
Music (Nick Cave and Warren Ellis) was not bad but too repetitive and not up to the movie’s level.
If you liked this post, buy me a beer
betrayal | Brad Pitt | civil war | coward | fear | Jesse James | outlaw | western