The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert FordOctober 10, 2007
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.
Release Year: 2007
Rating: 7.6/10 (77,757 voted)
Critic's Score: 68/100
Stars: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard
The last months of Jesse James's life, from meeting Robert Ford, a 19-year-old who idolizes Jesse, to the day Ford shoots him. Jesse's a wanted man, living under a pseudonym, carrying out a train robbery, disappearing to Kentucky, and reappearing to plan a bank holdup with Robert and Robert's brother as his team. The rest of the gang is dead, arrested, or gone from Missouri. Whenever Jesse's around, there's tension: he's murderous, quixotic, depressed, and cautious. Ford wants to be somebody and wants the reward. On April 3, 1882, things come to a head: Jesse is 34, Robert 20. Ford becomes famous, reenacting the shooting on stage, facing down the label "coward," shot dead in 1892.
Writers: Andrew Dominik, Ron Hansen
(as James DeFelice)
Ukranian Train Passenger
Jonathan Erich Drachenberg
Young Train Passenger
Beyond the myth lies America's greatest betrayal.
Release Date: 10 October 2007
Filming Locations: Alberta, Canada
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: $147,812
(23 September 2007)
(27 January 2008)
Did You Know?
The foreign passenger in the train-robbery early in the movie speaks Danish. He says "jeg har ingen penge" (I have no money) and "jeg taler ikke engelsk" (I don't speak English).
As the gang members wait during the day, to rob the train at Blue Cut during the night, one gang member recites a poem of Catullus ("My love says she would marry only me …"); the words he recites are from a translation published in 1970, "Catullus: The Complete Poems for American Readers", by Reney Myers and Robert J. Ormsby.
He was growing into middle age, and was living then in a bungalow on Woodland Avenue. He installed himself in a rocking chair and smoked a cigar down in the evenings as his wife wiped her pink hands on an apron and reported happily on their two children…
A hauntingly beautiful film
Andrew Dominik's The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert
Ford, is a deliberately paced, stunningly visualized, and emotionally
charged exploration of the early development of mass media celebrity in
America. The film riveted my attention for two hours and 40 minutes,
and has remained on my mind for several days after my viewing. Although
centered on one of the iconic legends of the Old West, it is far beyond
an updated reincarnation of the Western. It is an epic allegory about
the development of the American cult of celebrity and the effects of
this obsession on the individuals caught in its web.
Visually, the film soars beyond anything that has hit the screen since
Conrad Hall's final masterpiece with Road to Perdition. Roger Deakins,
the cinematography genius behind The Shawshank Redemption, Kundun, and
all the Cohen brothers" films since The Hudsucker Proxy, surpasses his
best work. He pulls out all the stops hereintricately orchestrated
changes in focus, richly textured colors, dazzling use of light
sources, careful manipulations of time, powerfully significant fade-ins
and fade-outs, and shots through rain, snow, and rippled old glassto
communicate the story. Deakins' contribution stands out in the railroad
train robbery sequence at the beginning of the film. Clearly defined,
flickering light sources and deep black shadows create a dazzling,
nightmarish vision that haunts the rest of the film. This sequence
alone is worth the price of admission.
The richly textured, historically precise visual aspects of the film
bring to mind Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven and Robert Altman's
McCabe and Mrs. Miller. However, instead of the understated,
"realistic" performances featured in those films, The Assassination of
Jesse James showcases powerful, yet still realistic performances by an
outstanding ensemble cast.
Sam Rockwell, as the not-too-bright but well-meaning Charley Ford, and
Mary-Louise Parker, as Jesse's loving wife, stand out. Yet the film
belongs to the two titular leads, both of whom deliver the performances
of their careers and create characters filled with disturbing
contradictions. Brad Pitt's Jesse James is alternately pitiable and
terrifyingan affectionate, loving father, an old-before-his-time sage,
an adventurous daredevil, an unrepentant bad boy, and a vicious
sociopath. Casey Affleck's Robin Ford is a complex, repellent, and
tragic character who challenges the audience's complicity in the
undercurrents of the film.
All in all, this is a great filmnot for those seeking the simple
pleasures of instant gratification. But definitely worth the attention
of those who still believe that movies are an art form.