The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Andrew Dominik

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Andrew Dominik
2007 was the year the western made a comeback, kind of. Pretty much languishing since Unforgiven proved that bad men turned good over the hill men turned back to bad could still grip viewers, and win Oscars, 2007 saw high-profile stars such as Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale don six-shooters and hit the dusty trail. Of course, there have been westerns in the between time, with The Proposition from 2005 being one of the bleakest, and best. And while Crowe/Bale’s remake of 3:10 To Yuma was more run-and-gun, Pitt’s Assassination harkens back to the languid pacing and gorgeous cinematography of Sergio Leone’s efforts. However, even Pitt’s star power and a stellar cast couldn’t make the film a hit with audiences. Pitt portrays the titular Jesse James, while Casey Affleck assays the role of the coward (Robert Ford). Both absolutely shine but it is the younger Affleck that makes his bones with the film, as he is simply stunning. Much like Titanic, or any "historical” film, viewers already know the outcome (it’s spelled out very clearly in the title), so it’s more about the journey and relationships than the destination for this tale of Jesse James’s last days. With James coming and going, the film follows Ford and his brother (another great turn by Sam Rockwell) as Ford’s star-worship of the notorious James turns to envy than resentment, until an opportunity to usurp his hero presents itself. However, the film doesn’t paint James as any sort of saint, far from it, and neither does it condemn Ford as a snivelling coward, as the title suggests. Pitt’s James is clearly on his last legs, tormented by paranoia and hiding his ruthless nature behind a friendly façade, and seems to welcome the end, while Affleck infuses Ford with a number of emotions, unique quirks and genuine regret for his actions. However, while the cast is great and the scenery spellbinding, the film does drag and the ending is, obviously, advertised well in advance. In terms of extras, Assassination comes utterly bereft, suggesting some sort of super-edition is down the road. A pity for fans in the meantime, who may want to rent until the special edition is released. (Warner)