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The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford



The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Director: Andrew Dominik
Writers: Andrew Dominik (screenplay), Ron Hansen (novel)
Cast: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Sam Rockwell


"Robert Ford, who's idolized Jesse James since childhood, tries hard to join the reforming gang of the Missouri outlaw, but gradually becomes resentful of the bandit leader."

This is film making as art...

I loved the choice of slow story telling combined with the documentary style of voice over narration. It's an effective way of telling the tale of the assassination, as it felt very personal. I liked the way the point of view was from Robert Ford and not Jesse James. This kept Jesse James as an enigma, and that's how the film presented him as, a man of mystery.

The look of the film is pure artistry, the colors are de-saturated to give a vintage look and feel to the film. Backing that up is slow camera movement with long scene takes and smooth scene transitions that often focus on scenery to allow the viewer time to digest what they've just seen, before going into the next scene.

One of the most amazing things about this movie was the use of blurred (out of focus) panels on the sides of some of the shots...like in the photo I used above. I've been noticing this trend on still photography in the last couple of years, but never had seen this done in a movie before. This film might be the genesis for that movement...The blurred edges aren't just ascetics, they work to focus attention on the subject in the center of the frame, while ignoring the information on the edges that have been blurred. I think that's so cool!

OMG! The spoken dialogue between the characters was perfect vernacular for the 1880s. Not many movies get this common man's language & style of speaking correctly. Notice there's no F bombs and when they talk sex talk, they use phrases and terms that would be common in the 1880's, but not today. The scriptwriter deserves an Oscar!

Generally I'm not a huge fan of Brad Pitt but he was perfect here as the quiet, yet sometimes animated, dark and enigmatic man of violence...who's also a caring family man. Pitt extruded this hidden dangerous streak that scarred the hell out of his men. I believed he was dangerous so it worked.

Cassey Affleck was amazing in this. The movie is told from his perspective and damn he deserved an Oscar too. I thought he was great in Manchester by the Sea but I liked his performance here even better. He's so good at letting the audience inside his head, that I felt like I was in his shoes. He's so natural and real on screen. The rest of the cast was exceptional and kudos goes to the director for keeping all the performances in balance with the subtle style of the film.

The Assassination of Jesse James is one of the most perfect films I've seen.