The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik – 2007) A+

I think this one is a masterpiece of a movie. Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) is a young man of about 20 who idolized Jesse James (Brad Pitt). Robert had all those books written about him extoling the adventures of the famous bandit that he kept under his bed. In April 1883 he shoots Jesse and kills him. Even the aftermath of the assassination is fascinating and an early look at fame and how legends are told. The film starts with Robert weaseling his way to join the James gang through his older brother Charlie (Sam Rockwell). He is that annoying fanboy who talks a lot and has something that makes him unlikable for some reason. He is also that kid who gets picked on by the older boys at school (or bandit gang) who you can see lashing out in the worst way at some point. He is also not a dumb guy and has no problem playing more than one side. Affleck is perfect in this role as is Pitt in the role of Jesse. There really are no weak performances here.

Jesse on the other hand is not a walk in the park. After the last train robbery he is more irritable, prone to bursts of violence, unpredictable and possibly a psychopath. Yet, he is charming and sweet with his family and can come across as your best friend if he chooses to. If he perceives that he is being betrayed and he’s being squeezed by the law then he also will lash out and start eliminating people. It’s a masterful film about these two character studies and the fascinating world they lived in. It’s also a beautiful movie with spectacular photography by the great Roger Deakins and melancholy wonderful score by Nick Cave. There’s also the narration. It’s rare narration adds a ton to a movie or enough for me to comment on it. Here it does, it’s beautifully complexly written (I’m guessing it is straight from the book) and performed. I cannot wait to watch this again very soon.


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