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Columns > Evan Winiker

Published: 2007/09/28
by Evan Winiker

The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford

Directed by Andrew Dominik
Starring Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck and Sam Rockwell
‘And the award goes to…’, is a phrase that we’re gonna be hearing during awards season, and I have a strong feeling that it will be followed by …The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This is truly the first movie I’ve seen all year that will definitely be nominated for a handful of awards (Best director, Best cinematography, Best Supporting Actor, Best costume design and Best screenplay), and it may well win most of these categories.
As its name suggests, the film documents the last year of Jesse James life and the unsettling way it came to an end. Beginning with the last train robbery that James and his gang committed, we meet the two main characters-Jesse James, the gregarious, rugged maverick, and Robert Ford, the young, ambivalent dreamer. After the heist, James asks Ford to stick around, but after a couple days of relaxing, James begins to feel uneasy around him and asks Ford to leave. As the months go by the outlaw becomes more and more paranoid of the people around him, thinking his whole gang is aiming to turn him in. Instead of sitting around and waiting for them to come to him, he goes out in search of them and the story takes shape.
There are two standout performances in this one and they are both on a massive scale. As Robert Ford, Casey Affleck is outstanding. His character completely changes shape, beginning as a teenager eager to shoot em up, we see his arc into an older man who regrets his previous decisions and lives with them. The other great performance is given by Brad Pitt, who could have easily flubbed as Jesse James, but truly showed James colors. He was a bipolar cowboy who often thought he was doing the right thing, even when he murdered. At the beginning of the film James is easily hated, murdering without hesitation, but just like Afflecks character, we see Pitt age and transform into a reflective father.
At two hours and forty minutes this’ll probably be the longest film you see all year. It’s not drawn out and its not too short, it delivers the story in such a way that you await the next chapter patiently (probably because of the extensive narration). Go out and see this movie, you’ll probably go home and Google your way through a few hours of Jesse James info just as I did!

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