The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford- Review
December 25, 2010 Leave a comment
This review is a throwback to one of my favorite films of all time; The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. This film did not particularly win over reviewers at its time of release, but over time has gained a loyal following and re-considered critical opinions. This film is one of my personal favorites because it was the first identifiable westerns that I enjoyed; never before a particular fan of the western genre this film much in the same vein as No Country for Old Men,disguises itself from its genre by rethinking and reimagining typical genre conventions.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (T.A.O.J.J) was released in 2007 after its initial 2006 release date was postponed so the film could spend longer in post-production; starring Brad Pitt as Jesse James (and also producing) critics widely claimed that his performance was outclassed by the mastery of Casey Afflecks turn as Robert Ford, James’ eventual killer. The film also has stunning cinematography from legend Roger Deakins (BSC, ASC) who seemingly paints onto the lens, unafraid to expose audiences to panoramas of the old west for almost uncomfortable lengths of time. If this sounds tiresome, I must insist that within the precise pacing of the film it is a completely valid technique. Furthermore Deakins illustrates his flashbacks beautifully, simply acknowledging them with a simple fisheye lens and some chromatic aberration, yet these simple identifiers serve the film well and never transcend the boundary of become too flashy or modern.
Anyone assuming this movie is all about murder is completely wrong, the bold title is taken from Ron Hansens novel of the same name; though it does not explain nor particularly allude to the true motives of the film. The best way to describe Andrew Dominics approach to the film to move away from the (perhaps) expected conventions of a ‘shoot-em-up’ western and instead suggest that it’s a psychological breakdown of James’ relationship with his diminishing gang. As he grows older James because incredibly suspicious of the company he keeps (apart from his family) and becomes excessively paranoid that he will be double crossed; though you never feel like his skills and talents are being compromised due to his growing animosity; we see this in one scene where Ford is flirting with the idea of killing James in his sleep, but as soon as his feet touch the boards James cocks his gun and with one growl insists Ford goes back to bed-this is a truly captivating moment.
T.A.O.J.J was nominated for roughly 53 awards, almost entirely within the categories of Best Supporting Actor for Affleck and Best Cinematography for Deakins, however the film only won 18 of these-none of them household names. However many top critics have since given T.A.O.J.J place in their top ten lists of 2007, with the film taking at least 7 top three places in the lists by names such as The HollyWood Reporter, Variety, USA Today, CNN and Empire Magazine.
To anyone reading this review that still hasn’t seen T.A.O.J.J I urge you to watch it; I fully acknowledge that it may not be to everyone’s taste, most likely due to its methodical pacing and ambient nature but if you can overlook these aspects of the film the action, beauty and character depth truly make up for them in tonnes.
If you haven’t worked it out yet, see this film NOW.